Tuesday, November 29, 2011
To grandmother’s house we go…..
So this year as opposed to my usual sojourn to Boston, I decided to head to California for Thanksgiving, to spread cheer amongst additional little people, and to make myself useful. Even more useful than usual, that is. I would stay with Grandma in Seal Beach, then be her designated chauffeur on Thanksgiving Day, driving her back and forth to Normal Brother’s place, in Tujunga.
I know, I know – the extent of these sacrifices I make of my time and effort, it’s astounding. But that’s just how I am.
Of course, this trip to Normal Brother’s on Thanksgiving was only going to happen if we survived that long. Because as soon as I got to Grandma’s, it became clear that food poisoning might be imminent.
Take the stuffed cabbage, or holubtsi, as we call them. I loooove stuffed cabbage – that’s one of the few Ukrainian dishes I can make really well, modeled after my mom’s way of making them, because no other kind I’ve tried ever compares. And naturally Grandma makes them the same way. So the night of my arrival, I was all set to happily dig into my plate of holubtsi, when my mom calls.
Mom: ….and blah blah…..and this and that……and oh yes, remember to be careful about what you eat. Grandma has a tendency to keep food that’s expired. That’s probably why she’s had an upset stomach and been running to the bathroom for the last 2 weeks!
I swear I am not making this up. I pause with a forkful of stuffed cabbage on its way to my mouth.
Me: Umm…..what kind of food?
Mom: Oh, one time there was the ground beef that she left in the frig for over a week, then decided to put it in the freezer. Ha ha, that was something!
Mom: And the sour cream! She left THAT on the counter, and it was already old! Make sure you check the expiration dates on everything!
Shit. There’s my 94-year-old Grandma, smiling at me beatifically, waiting for me to dig into the stuffed cabbage. So it’s the feelings of Grandma – and for someone who likes to trash talk and complain about pretty much every other person under the sun, she gets her feelings hurt VERY easily – or my entire digestive tract at stake here. That’s an easy call.
Me: Дякою, Баба. Дуже смачного! (Thanks, Grandma. Very tasty!)
She then tries to push on me the blintsi (crepes), which unlike the holubtsi, do taste kind of……off. Like the flour or butter she used wasn’t quite fresh. Sigh. At least the sour cream is okay, I hope. I sidle over to the counter to surreptitiously take a look at the sour cream container. Which…….has a Country Crock lid. Sigh again.
Oh well, down the hatch. What can you do?
Though it’s interesting to note that when I posted this adventure on Facebook, about my mom belatedly telling me about grandma’s problem with paying attention to expiration dates, it turns out that pretty much EVERYONE has a grandmother-with-spoiled-food-like-on-Hoarders story. Everyone.
From Shannon: “My Gram always had these...containers...she used to pack up her care packages she'd give me when I'd leave her house. They were usually some type of former food container that had been re-used about 100 times.”
To Jen: “Hoarders!!!! My grandma sent leftovers home in used kool whip and country crock containers. I think that is a grandma thing too.”
To Andi: “Omg. I was just talking about that with my family! Little old Swedish grandma insists on cooking the whole meal for holidays and last year was... questionable, to say the least. This year her eyesight has gone even more... so she doesn't see dirty plates etc.”
Then Lisa reminisced about her Baba, who I knew, leaving meat and cheese out on the counter until it was eaten, and Debbie chimed in about the bottle of salad dressing at a family dinner at grandma’s that had an expiration date of 5 years prior. And of course, Andi and I have in common grandmothers who clean and dry paper plates and paper towels, as if they’re meant to be reused. The “universal elderly money-saving technique,” as Andi puts it.
Somehow this makes me feel better, as if we’re all part of this vast network of grandkids of aging relatives taking our lives into our own hands so as to not make the elderly feel bad. It really does take a village…..
Next up: Why taking your 94-year-old Grandma to Costco 2 days before Thanksgiving is a Very Very Bad Idea....