Mom & the Grilled Cheese

My Mother is an amazing cook. She can cook the shit out of a pot roast (we called it “roasted pot” growing up) and make a mean “roast beast”. Her split pea soup is out of this world, as is her “kitchen cacciatore” (really chicken cacciatore). She grows a slew of tomatoes in her garden each summer, and we were always able to make them into plain sauce, and freeze the sauce in smaller portions so that we had home grown tomato sauce we could doctor any which way, all throughout the winter, and almost through spring. I was spoiled that way, but I fully intend on spoiling my own children the exact same way someday.

One night, when I was in middle or high school, after waiting patiently for days while the split pea soup thickened, and slow cooked down to perfection, we just couldn’t take the hambone smell anymore! My Mother, Father and I all agreed that tonight, we simply had to have it for dinner! What pairs best with a big bowl of split pea soup? Again, we all agreed on some super cheesy grilled cheese. My Mother yanked out a brand new loaf of store bought bread (this was prior to my Father honing in on his bread baking hobby) and cheese and set to work.

Back upstairs, after our dinner consensus was reached, I tried to squeeze in a few more math problems and my Father went back down to the basement to continue his never ending battle with the beast named laundry. About ten minutes went by, and I heard my Mom downstairs exclaim, “Oh shit!” followed by a clatter of what sounded like pans, and the garbage bin slam.

I came out of my room, and to the top of the stairs and said, “Are you ok?”

“I’m fine.” My mother said, flatly.

I didn’t have a visual of the kitchen from my vantage point atop the steps, so I said “Ok… well let me know when you want me to come down and set the table.”

“OK.” My mother said, again, without enthusiasm.

I walked back to my room again. Halfway through another math problem, another exclamation from the kitchen, “God bless it!” she yelled.

This time I had to investigate. I descended the steps and caught my mother slamming the garbage bin again. I asked, “What on earth is going on?”

She answered in a low voice, “Don’t tell your father, I accidentally burnt the first two batches of grilled cheese sandwiches.”

“What?” I said, having trouble taking her seriously.

“Shh!” She hissed.

I opened the garbage bin gingerly, and there they were: 4 completely burnt, to the blackest of black, grilled cheese. “Oh, this is sad!” I mourned.

“Don’t worry, third time’s the charm!” She said, although I wasn’t entirely convinced in her optimism. She started the third batch, using more butter than ever, man, were those sammies looking cheesy! She laid them delicately in the pan, and we heard the butter begin to sizzle.

I smiled as I thought of the dinner to come, and opened the silverware drawer to begin setting the table. Mom grabbed plates and bowls, and followed me into the dining room. As we set the table, we started chatting, and giggling about something that had happened that day at school, and the next thing we knew, the fire alarm began wailing from the kitchen! My Father had run up the stairs from the basement as we heard him yell, “Holy shit!” Mom and I both dashed from the dining room to the kitchen just as he was grabbing the smoking pan off the stove.

The third batch had burnt so badly, it had started smoking, setting the alarm off. How long had we been in the dining room? Apparently long enough to nearly set our 5th and 6th sandwiches on fire. Dad held the pan over the garbage can, and I winced, knowing what he’d see when he opened it. Mom tried to beat him to it, but alas, her efforts were futile. He stood there, one foot on the garbage lid peddle, with the lid wavering at half mast, one hand holding the smoking pan with the charred remains of grilled cheese sandwiches, the other hand on his heart, as though it was breaking. His eyes were as big as saucers, as they darted back and forth from the bin to the pan, counting the grilled cheese corpses.

“Umm…” Mom tried. I stifled a smile.

“No.” My father negated. “You will leave the kitchen now. You will let me make the grilled cheese. And you will not ever try to make grilled cheese sandwiches ever, ever, again, so long as we are married: which will be until one of us dies, because that’s what we agreed to at our wedding.” He said ominously. I almost cracked into laughter.

“Umm…” Mom tried, again, laughing nervously. I looked away, because I could barely hold in my own laughter.

“Nope.” Dad said, still staring into the bin. He deposited the third batch in the group grave, and let his foot off the pedal, allowing the lid to slam. Mom and I winced at the sound. Why was it so loud, all of a sudden? “Out of the kitchen.” he growled. I laboriously tried to keep it together.

“Umm… we’re almost out of bread…” Mom squeaked. A smile cracked across my face, and Mom burst out laughing.

“GET OUT.” Dad quipped. We really couldn’t hold it in any more, and we both giggled as I followed Mom into the dining room.

“Do you think he’s serious, about never letting me make grilled cheese again?” She asked me, once she thought we were out of earshot.

“YES. I AM!” He yelled from the kitchen, but we could hear the smile on his face.

He was serious, too, because to this day, my Mom has been banned from attempting grilled cheese in our house. We love regaling people with this story, “Remember that time Mom tried, and failed, making grilled cheese so many times that she nearly used up an entire loaf of bread?” It’s such a human tale. Usually other people will come out with their own hilarious stories of kitchen mishaps, and we all end up in tears from laughing so hard.

I know my parents love each other, because they literally cannot stay mad at each other for more than 5 minutes at a time. Yes, they bicker, and poke and prod, and push each other’s buttons, but I know that’s what happens when you’re a true partner with your spouse, because Martin and I are the exact same way. I will never forget my father standing there, mortified, over the garbage bin, and my Mom and I trying not to burst out laughing because of the silliness of it all.


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