How big was my oven?
Did I have a freezer?
How big is my refrigerator?
Did I own any pots and pans?
Did I have a crockpot?
Did I have a kettle?
And so on and so on....
My kitchen up until the time she moved in was a multipurpose room. I didn't even own a dining table; I ate Japanese-style off of a coffee table in front of my TV. And that's when I ate at home.
Instead of a dining table I had a computer desk and a rolling office chair in there where for years I worked at my own pitiful little website, guzzling coffee and pecking at my keypad.
If I needed a cup of coffee, I could spin around and get it from the coffee maker right behind me. When the fish sticks were done I could wheel over to the oven, pull them out and spin around and get the tartar sauce out of the fridge behind me. My spice rack consisted of salt and pepper.
Fifty dollars got us a shiny stainless steel set of shelves at WalMart which was badly needed since my kitchen didn't have a lot of shelf space. I found a large wooden cabinet with three shelves at another garage sale for a mere fifteen dollars; this provided some additional shelf space. The few cooking utensils I had were all scorched and burnt black by drunken ex-room mates; a few trips to Aldi got us a badly needed iron skillet and dutch oven. Some stainless and non-stick steel skillets and cooking pans were also purchased, as well as a garden variety of cookie and muffin sheets. We bought a wok after seeing them in action on a cruise last year (Mrs Mom can attest to my love of stir-fry cooking)
I purchased a huge 7-quart crock pot for making my own chili although we may eventually wind up getting His and Hers versions since I like my chili a little bit spicier than Mrs Mom. A huge stainless steel three-piece pasta cooker was also purchased as well as a water kettle. How did I ever live without one of these? I am fond of a hot cup of tea from time to time (Tazo Wild Sweet Orange is my particular favorite) and found it handy for making hot chocolate and instant oatmeal as well. A porcelain tea kettle was purchased so now I can serve my tea in an even fancier manner than before.
Piece by piece and step by step my kitchen was transformed from the sloppy bachelor version I was used to into a version much more palatable to Mrs Mom but I'm still getting used to having to actually get up out of my chair for a cup of coffee. On the plus side fish sticks have fallen off the menu here in Mr Moms Kitchen....
Mom's Last Words
A few years back we began talking more and more about the inevitable day in the future when we’d be coexisting under the same roof. We knew that it would involve me relocating my roots to Texas where he has lived and worked all of his life.
During one particular Google chat, after he'd returned back home to Texas, we meandered as usual through a myriad of topics ranging from bluebonnets to whale watching when somehow the topic of his oven came up. It went sorta like this:
Mr Mom: I just got an ATMOS bill. I just paid one right before I left.
Me: What is atmos? Gas? You have gas? I thought you just had electric.
Mr Mom: Got both
Me: What is the gas for?
At this point, I’m almost holding my breath; waiting for “the” answer.
Mr Mom: dryer, hot water heater, stove
Ding! Ding! Ding!
We have a winner! I tell him how I love gas stoves, they cook food so much better than electric. But then he breaks the news that throws me for a loop, and starts a proverbial snowball rolling.
Mr Mom: small oven
me: Oh? How small? You can't cook a turkey in it? What about holding a cookie sheet?
You see women care about these things, because they know they matter.
Mr Mom: It's called an "apartment" oven, it’s about 24 inches across. I don't have a vent like you have, if you cook on the stove top we will have to open the door and point a fan at you :)
I then gave him the response that says everything while only using two letters; the response that sets any man into panic mode, and therefore -- action.
Mr Mom: oh no, shouldn't be that bad
Me: We'll have to find cookie sheets to fit and a small roaster, no cooking for a crowd that’s for sure and we’re going to have to get the largest crock pot you can find
Mr Mom: There’s a thing in the bottom I think is for roasting
Me: you think? :) Take a picture...
I heard him sigh heavily even with all those miles between us, and my door closed.
Mr Mom: hold on
While he was taking a photo, I was searching online.
Me: Ohhhhhh!! They have a 5 qt crock pot at Walmart on sale now for $16 and a 6.5 qt for $19...
He tells me to hang on. He was measuring, and shortly thereafter informs me his cookie sheets fit inside the oven.
Mr Mom: I use them for nachos and fish sticks and pizzas.
What a bachelor. I find myself wondering how he managed to live this long on such nutritionally void food.
Mr Mom: the broiler has about five or six inches clearance, my oven is basically 18x18x18 inches and the broiler about 18x 5
I could tell he’s in full don’t-give-up-on-me-now mode. I tried to reassure him that we’ll make do.
There was a notice in my inbox and go to look at the picture of his stove. Not only has he sent me what I requested, he’s sent an entire series of photos of the inside and outside with ‘the roasting pan’ and a tape measure extended on the interior shots indicating the height, width and depth of the stove’s oven.
It was small. Really small. I reminded myself that size really doesn't matter and tell him if we have a crock pot we’ll be fine.
Me: your photos made me smile :) :) :) getting out your tape measure and all ;) :) I love you :)
Mr Mom : Love you too, Hon. Just showing you a cookie sheet will fit. The stores here have an amazing array of things in all sizes
Me: Yes, there are a lot of single or 2 people families these days. It’s not like the old days when there were families of 12 to feed
Mr Mom: Yeah, the Lonely Bachelor model :)
Me: or the Couple Just Starting Out Model ;)
All was well. I love this, man and I knew, that although it was going to be a challenge we were going to do our best to make it work. I looked at the photos he sent and imagined cooking a small ham or turkey breast in it to celebrate Thanksgiving.
I notice the two small pots sitting on the top of his stove in the top photograph.
Me: Are the pots on top the extent of what you have for cooking?
Mr Mom: we can buy what we need
Yes, he’s right, I reminded myself for the millionth time, this isn't the end of the world.
Fast forward a couple of days; we were on Google chat once again. He’d come home from work and we were catching up on each other’s day. He’d worked a long ten hours, and had stopped on his way home to get BBQ’d ribs and had just finished feeding his cat.
He asks me what I’ve been up to. I’d been to the local market and had gotten some great deals on produce, and the day had been on the cool side, so I’d been cooking and baking up a storm to stock up the freezer. I’d cooked corn on the cob to freeze the kernels, made a huge green bean casserole and divided it up into smaller portions. I’d made a pot of pulled pork, meatloaf and to top it off two batches of cookies. He sounded impressed by my wanton display of domesticity.
Little did I know, I'd just added another layer to that proverbial snowball we'd been forming.
Me: I's a cool Fall day here. Perfect for cooking and stocking up the freezer. On nice days there, I'll do the same. Wait, your freezer is small though huh?
Mr Mom: Yeah that is a problem, I don't have room for one either.
Me: I have a small one in my kitchen I got for a couple of hundred dollars. It's really nice to have when deals come up.
Mr Mom: they sell smaller ones, but space is an issue here
I know his place is small, and I really don't want to have my arrival feel more like an imposition than the start of a wonderful chapter in our lives, so I tell him we'll work it out and make do.
Mr Mom: I will take you to the farmers market on weekends :)
Me: Oh, I love farmers markets!
Mr Mom: and we can shop in the evenings...
Me: I like talking about it though, it makes it seem real :)
Mr Mom: you will just have to make adjustments. Just keep in mind you are coming to a bachelors apartment.
Me: Is that a warning?
Mr Mom: my way of arranging things may seem strange, computer, washing machine and dryer in the kitchen
Me: well that is odd ;) I was hoping for a table and chairs
Mr Mom: Another thing, I have no dining table.
Mr Mom: But we can get this stuff, I have a truck.
I tried to reassure him that I didn't need fancy, only clean and functional. I mentioned that I really like the little island I had in the middle of my kitchen for baking and cooking. Apparently he didn't have one of those either. And no cookware; but he assures me he has plates, utensils and glasses. A vision ran through my head of mismatched plates, and a set of plastic Tupperware cups. Ugh. I might as well be honest now.
Me: Glass glasses? I don't like plastic ;)
Mr Mom: Got glass glasses
Whew! Dodged that bullet. He continues on to tell me he's been looking at sets of pots and pans. I tell him I prefer stainless steel because the coated stuff has carcinogens. He assures me we're going to be fine. We'll start making a list of things we need, and watch prices. Then I realize, we're talking an awful lot about me cooking.
Me: We can eat out if it's too hot to cook right?
Mr Mom: Yes we can
I decide to have a little fun...
Me: You do have pillows and sheets?
Mr Mom: Yes! I have a real bed with a real mattress.
Me: Two sets of sheets? And towels?
Mr Mom: One to wash, one to wear and a bathroom closet full of towels.
Me: Dish clothes, dish towels?
Mr Mom: Some, but the dollar store has those.
Me: Curtains may be an issue, I've seen your living room ones.
Mr Mom: This is adding up ;)
Me: I'll bring the curtains if that's the deal breaker.
Mr Mom: Oh baby, we can get these things; going to cost to make you feel at home; take some work...good thing I have a truck... :)
Me: Do you have a dresser? closet for clothes?
Mr Mom: That's another problem. We are going to have to do some improvisation to make you comfortable here
That's it. I've got to let him off the hook and tell him that as long as he's there and happy about me being there, then the rest will come as its needed to. But dang it all, my teasing has gotten him worried and he shares something that's been eating at him.
Mr Mom: Just afraid you will look around and go: 'how do you live like this?"
I smile to myself. I've seen his place. Pictures, videos. I've shared space with this man and know how carefully meticulous he is. I know he takes care of what he has, rather than thinking of his possessions as disposable and easily replaced. I know he doesn't have much, but takes great pride in and care of what he does. I tell him I'm not worried. He believes me and we move on to an entirely different topic.
What pots and pans he has was really insignificant when I take in the full reality of the fact that after being a bachelor for his entire life, he was willing to open up his world and let me in. That is far better than a full-sized oven, don't you think?
Fast forward a few years from these conversations -- we made the leap and I made the move. A crock pot and a kitchen island later, all is well and life is good.