Thursday, April 15, 1999

surviving easter

If I have to eat another ham sandwich, I'm going to throw a fit.

This past Easter Sunday was the first Easter my wife and I celebrated as a married couple. Last year, when we were only engaged, I think we observed the holiday by eating out at a restaurant, hanging out for a while, and finally heading back to our respective apartments, where we passed the rest of the day doing our individual things.

Not this year. This year, by gum, we're a family and I was determined to make sure we celebrated Easter properly. So on Holy Saturday, I paid a visit to the local supermarket to buy the proper ingredients for a Learn family Easter dinner.

It was about the time I pushed the shopping cart through the front door that I realized I had no idea what a proper Learn family Easter dinner involved. I don't know why that should be the case; I've been a member of the Learn family for 28 Easters, and all but five of them had been with my parents.

"Mashed potatoes," Natasha had told me before I left. "You have to have mashed potatoes."

I'm not sure why she thinks she's an expert on these matters; she's been a Learn for only 10 months. Still, in only 10 months I've learned that when Natasha uses that tone of voice, I have to listen. Natasha is only 4-foot-11, but she can make every inch count when she has to.

I picked up the potatoes in one aisle, bought some pork stuffing from another aisle, and found the perfect Easter ham in the back. ("I can't wait to hear how you plan to stuff a ham," one friend told me Sunday morning at church. Before I could tell her that that wasn't the point, Natasha cut in with, "He just likes to eat stuffing," and proceeded to embarrass me by recounting the time a box of stuffing was all I ate for dinner one night when I was a bachelor.)

Now I should mention that due to various circumstances, I have become the de facto househusband. I take our dirty clothes to the Laundromat every week, I wash the dishes after most meals, and more and more lately, I have been preparing the meals. I'm a liberated man of the 90s, and this is not a problem for my self-image.

The only problem is I don't know how to cook.

So it was that late Sunday afternoon, Natasha was talking to my parents about their Easter celebration. I walked into the study where she was and asked, "Honey, how do I glaze a ham?"

She told me, and when I still didn't get it, she made a mixture of mustard and brown sugar and glazed it for me. I popped the ham into the oven, peeled the potatoes and went back into the study where she was now talking with my brother Brian, who had just called.

"Honey, how do I make mashed potatoes?"

"Boil them!"

"How long?"

"Until they're done!"

(My brother later commented that it sounded like Natasha and I had been at any moment ready to file divorce papers over the mashed potatoes.)

Next it was, "Honey, how do I cook broccoli?"

"Steam it, or it'll lose its nutritional value," she said. (She really does talk like that, mind you. She's the only woman I've ever known to complain that she has a large surface area-to-volume ratio and that her glomerular filtration rate is higher than convenient.)

Of course, we have no bamboo steamer, despite the many TV ads I saw for them when I was a boy. I finally improvised a steamer by placing a colander of broccoli on top of a pot of boiling water.

By 8 p.m. - thank goodness for daylight-saving time - dinner was finished. We had a nicely done (if I do say so myself) box of stuffing; mashed potatoes with undercooked, unmashed pieces of potato mixed in for variety; mostly cooked broccoli and the ham.

All 10 pounds of it. For the two of us.

Did I mention that I'm sick of leftovers?

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