Serendipity: hamburgers, laundry, the things we learn

A small dash of serendipity struck this afternoon. Kat and I are going to make arrangements to go to Birmingham sometime soon—probably next weekend. She needs a particular facial cleanser from a store whose closest outlet is in Birmingham, and we both want to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch. We’ll combine trips.

Like today; we combined forces at Costco. Costco, like Sam’s, sells everything in bulk. (Need a metric ton of crackers? They’ve got them.) Since we both live in small households, this isn’t always useful for us. We all know that meat is significantly cheaper there, but the packages are so large that they’re not terribly useful for us. It occurred to me a few months ago that if two of us were willing to combine forces, that we could split some purchases and come out with a lot of meat for the less-than-horrific amounts that we’re accustomed to paying.

So we split some packages, Kat and I. In the end, I got three meals’ worth of hamburger meat, three meals’ worth of leg of lamb (diced large for curry), three or four meals’ worth of boneless country-style pork ribs, and about three or four meals’ worth of boneless skinless chicken thighs. Not bad for $26. I’m accustomed to paying much more.

I must confess one thing: I cannot look at hamburger meat, even now, without chuckling and thinking of Susan Hightower. My friends now all look at me as the mother of all domesticity—cooking for ten people at a time and hosting gatherings and (hopefully) making it seem easy.

But, once upon a time, before the nickname ‘domesticat,’ there was an Amy who didn’t know how to cook. Being the youngest, she’d always been in the way when it came time for holiday meals, and thus hadn’t learned much about cooking.

(Hard to believe, isn’t it?)

I visited Susan a lot, especially when she lived in an apartment that was practically across the street from my dorm. She would cook for me sometimes, and we’d watch movies and have a beer or two and just talk.

There came a night when she needed help cooking. I offered to help (hoping she wouldn’t take me up on it) and she accepted.

What did she hand me but a slab of…well, it was raw hamburger meat. I remembered watching my mother, and I recalled that I had to shred the meat before throwing it in the pan. I thought, “Yeah, I can get away with this,” and began to look busy and competent.

That is, until I looked to Susan and said nonchalantly, “Do I need to put oil in the pan for this?”

She turned redder than the raw hamburger—and I’m sure that I did as well. She took the hamburger from me and said, “Why don’t I talk you through this recipe, and you tell me what you don’t know, and I’ll teach you.”

Obviously, I learned a lot from Susan.

A dusty corner of my mind recalls my attendance at a camp during my teen years. I remember seeing a male friend pull out a list of instructions from his mother about how to do laundry, and I remember how it was nearly the most amusing thing in the world to me, knowing that someone my age didn’t know how to wash clothes.

He muddled through—like I did, years later. Even now, though, I can’t look at hamburger meat without suppressing a bit of a giggle. This afternoon, as Kat packaged up the hamburger meat and put it in my freezer, I couldn’t help but think that somewhere, Susan probably cracked a smile and didn’t know why. It’s probably a lot like the smile I get every now and then when I’m doing laundry, and I find myself thinking of a teenage boy armed with a package of detergent and a real ‘laundry list.’

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