Dinner: a Litany

This one started as a writing prompt of the ‘describe an everyday process of making something’ sort. But then my mind got stuck on an idea I’d had right as I was starting to make dinner and it became…. something else. But with remnants of the process descriptions sticking to its ribs.

Dutch oven charcoal and chalk pastel

Dinner: a Litany

Every day the same litany:
what’s for dinner?
Food.
What kind of food?
The food you eat.

Use your eyes
Figure it out:

* * *

There’s a box of pasta, an onion and a broken bulb of garlic, a red bell pepper,
Canned crushed tomatoes, tomato paste wrapped in brown parchment paper in a frost-covered bag from the freezer,
Jars of fennel, anise, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil,
A jar of olives, a dash of fish sauce, a can of olive oil, and a bowl of salt.
There’s the big orange dutch oven with the chipped enamel and the dark stains, the wooden spoon, the bottle of wine uncorked, the can opener, the colander, the chef’s knife, the cutting board…

* * *

Surely, child, you know what all of this makes.
Surely, you don’t need to ask.

Surely you can see the pork chops floating in the brine, the pile of potatoes, the pan with a rack, the sliced cabbage and grated carrots.

Surely you know what dish is made with tofu, miso, wakami, udon, shitake, and dashi.

Surely I don’t have to explain hot dogs and hamburgers and buns to you and the smoke curling from the grill.

You requested this dish yourself when we made the menu last week.
So why do you ask?

* * *

Every day the same litany:
Do I have to?
Every day the same answer: They must be fed.

Every night the cold tiles suck the heat from my soles
But every night the stove’s warm glow eventually has me shucking off my jacket and hat
And I wipe my wet hands on the red apron.

* * *

First, put away all the clean dishes and empty all the dirty dishes
from the sink into the dishwasher
Clear the counter
Put away the loaf of bread, the peanut butter, the jelly, the dirty knives
the tea spoons and sugary mugs with drops of milky tea or coffee
the crumbs
the remnants
the Legos
And the paper airplane
as well as the odd dirty sock.

Then gather the ingredients and all the tools you will need
Arrange the scene,
Apron, prep bowls, serving dishes.

Wouldn’t it make a lovely still life?
No time to paint. Pause to appreciate the effect. Maybe snap a photo.
Now it’s time to get to work.

* * *

Do you have a recipe? A plan? A strategy?

Fix yourself a cup of tea. Put on something to listen to.

Begin chopping

Yes, there will be interruptions.

No, you will not be paid.

The food is your reward, the growing bodies. Maybe a word of thanks or praise
or just a plate that empties itself in a blink.

Or, just as likely, the wrinkled lip, the groan, the sigh, the mutter and mumble, the screech and the yell. Amen, I tell you, you have received your reward.

Every night. The same litany.

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