Forgetting How to Cook
I remember when my ex-ex-mother-in-law was ill or away for a few days. My ex-ex-father-in-law didn’t really know how to cook anything. This was a bit of a shock for me, but I guess it is a fairly common thing for American men of a certain generation.
However, this has never been the case for Vitauts. Dad has always cooked. He never relied on Liesma to prepare his food for him; in fact, he rarely ate what we were eating.
His recipes were spartan and masculine. Pork chops, fried in lard with potatoes and a small salad on the side. Lamb chops, fried with potatoes and some bread. Bacon. So many varieties of fried and baked bacon.
When we were little, on some weekends or days we were home sick, dad might have woken up before mom, and he would make us French Toast or his lamb chops. One of my friends liked his pork coutlets and his steak tartar. He was no gourmet, but he could hold his own with his fried crispy blood sausage or fried kielbasas.
So when he moved in with me, one concern outsiders had was, “Who feeds him.” Vitauts has never really been one to be fed by anyone. Each morning, I would see him with this beautifully balanced breakfast with a grapefruit and some sandwiches. When I came home from school at lunch time, there he would be, frying up some masterpiece to be enjoyed at the table with his newspaper. Supper was usually leftovers from lunch or some other prepared meal.
He would go through potatoes, pork chops, bacon and sausages quickly and need to replenish his supply every few days.
But lately, I noticed that he hasn’t been cooking as often. I wasn’t aware of what a trend it had become until I saw him put raw bacon on a sandwich. “Why don’t you cook that?” I asked. “It takes too long,” he said. Weird. I had to coax him to even boil some potatoes.
The bacon and sausages and pork chops sat uncooked in the fridge, so I asked him about them. I pulled out a pan and the chops for him, and eventually he went to cooking them. He enjoyed them immensely, and I warmed them up for his supper later. The bacon, however, remained.
So last night he was kind of sulking in the kitchen, looking for something to eat but claiming that he wasn’t hungry. “Cook your bacon!” I told him. And he said he would, but then he went back to his room to sit down and watch t.v. I went back in and asked if he wanted the bacon. “There is bacon?” he asked.
So I got the ball rolling. I started frying the bacon, and he walked into the kitchen to see what I was doing. He took over cooking with a fork, carefully crisping each piece. After it was finished, he devoured the whole slab.
Today, I went home for lunch at 12:30, and he hadn’t eaten yet. He was protesting as he does about not being hungry and this and that. I put an uneaten kielbasa and some boiled potatoes out on the counter. He walked in, looked at them, and after a few minutes he muttered, “These need to be warmed up. How do I warm them up?”
He was completely confused about what to do with cold food. Suddenly, the gift of cooking was now a mystery to him. He literally did not know what to do with it. I told him to get a pan, get some oil, and fry it up, but he looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about. So I went into the kitchen, and got one of my cast iron pans with some grease in it, and set it on the stove. “You just put the meat and potatoes in here and fry it up.” He still looked confused, but soon went to cutting up the potatoes and sausage. He did a really lovely job of that.
I left before he started cooking, but I think I gave him enough tools and suggestions to get him going.
I can only hope that this is a temporary loss of memory. You can’t forget something you have known your whole life, can you? I suppose you can. You read stories about it all the time. But forgetting names and events is one thing, but forgetting the fundamental nature of your being? That seems entirely ludicrous and cruel.
On a side note, he has also forgotten at times what he did with his life. He didn’t know he was a pastor for over 50 years. One of my friends sent me a program from a school of divinity that listed Vitauts Grinvalds and three of his classmates from the Fremont Seminary: 60 Year Anniversary. Pretty amazing there, VG.
p.s. I’m still off Facebook. It’s been two weeks or so since my last actually login. This and other posts to FB come from my other social media accounts. Enjoy, but if I don’t respond, that’s why. JG. So send thoughts or comments to me via gmail. Thanks!