I have a reputation in this neighborhood for cooking for my puppies, more so than for my husband. Everyone in this neighborhood knows my puppies get home-baked dog treats and elaborate meals with cooked meat scraps drenched in chicken-broth and beef-gravy condiments.
And the other thing I need to tell you is that over the years I have developed relationships with my neighbors that vary from one to another. Some neighbors are as informal when they visit as my own family. They drop in unannounced, anytime of the day. And if we happen to be eating, and I’m still cooking, I throw on an extra plate and add some speedy thing to the menu like toast, hot-dogs, macaroni, or something from a tin. Whatever happens, whatever the case, we so solidly understand each other that there is no reason for me to be anxious even if the toast burns, the fudge doesn’t harden properly, the macaroni is welded together into one big dumpling and the cake is doughy in the center. (P.S. I have the odd cooking failure as everyone does but I exaggerate here just so you’ll readily realize how much at ease we are with each other).
But at the same time, I have other neighbors descended from a more formal clan. And those neighbors wouldn’t dream of stopping by unannounced although I see them slowly driving by and looking at vehicles in my driveway and envying those who do. They are so curious in fact, that sometimes they phone just to ask who was visiting. And I can hear the disgruntled huff when I tell them one of my informal neighbors dropped in unannounced.
That is how it is and always has been so I was surprised last week when formal neighbors who for thirty years have never come for a visit unannounced, drove into my yard. Formal neighbors that are so pained by the overt audacity of my informal neighbors that in all these years they have refused to befriend them and if forced to speak to them only do with chilly rigid civility. But now into my driveway comes Formal Husband (FH) and Formal Wife (FW) – unannounced. The same FW that complained to me for years about how rude and improper it was of her sister-in-law and mother-in-law to stop in unannounced.
Now some days Hub and I have rather late suppers and it just so happened when this couple arrived, although I hadn’t yet set the table, we were just about to sit down and eat. Seeing the pots on the stove, the wife apologized profusely for interrupting our evening meal and insisted that we ignore her and her husband and go ahead and eat. They had eaten in town and were just on their way home when they decided to stop in. So I did exactly as she suggested. Put on our supper and poured them coffee to sip while we ate.
Now like anyone else, some supper’s are a slammed together mish-mash of whatever is in the fridge, other times – not. Tonight’s supper happened, by chance, to be grilled steaks, mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and salad. Dished up, it was an attractive meal.
So we visited for a few hours and after our company left, Hub said with a grin, “Woman, you do me proud. I was happy to see you had made such a delightful supper. One that showed that you spare no effort to ensure we eat well. I could see she (the wife) was impressed and he (the husband) was probably thinking if she cooked like that he wouldn’t be going out to a crummy restaurant.”
I laughed and said to Hub. “It wouldn’t have mattered if we were having hot dogs and pan-fried left-over macaroni (which happens to be very good with a dollop of sour cream or stewed tomatoes), ‘cause I already had a back-up plan.”
“Oh, and what was the plan?”
“These neighbors know as well as any of our neighbors how much time I spend cooking for my puppies. So if the menu had been some less-than-appetizing mish-mash of leftovers I would have just dumped ‘your supper’ in the doggie’s dish and said, ‘Oh, that stuff wasn’t for us…that was for the dogs.”
Unfortunately, Hub is not always quick at recognizing my intent. I can just see me dumping Hub’s supper in Dough-Gee’s dish and then Hub sitting there staring at the dog, stomach rumbling and real tears flowing down his face, while Dough-Gee cleaned up the dish. And then, of course, the gig would be up, and the neighbors would know it was a put on and we’d all feel bloody uncomfortable.