TODAY is my first day of batching, the first day of a month without my wife organising house and home and me. She left yesterday for Europe – first stop Paris – with our eldest daughter, a trip hurriedly organised when our daughter made a very generous offer. It wasn’t so generous that it included me, but I have assured them repeatedly that there is no need to worry about me. In fact I’m signing off my electronic communications to them with DWAM, for Don’t Worry About Me. I’ve even given my wife some spending money from my secret stash, on the condition that she not spend it on crap and that she not buy me anything because it is invariably crap.
I suppose I am feeling a little crabby.
My wife and I haven’t been apart for anything like a month in the 33 years of our marriage – it’s our anniversary at the end of this week, and I’ll be making much of that. There were a couple of work-sponsored trips overseas years ago, and I was in hospital for 10 days eight years ago and she was in hospital for the same time last year. For all but her stay in hospital, my time away was catered, and I suppose that’s the point about the current month, that for me it is uncatered. I’ll be batching. For a month. With my teenage son, who, thankfully, knows how to work the dishwasher.
Ours has always been what some see as a sexist household, and I’m the first to admit that I’m on a good thing. My wife does the cleaning, the washing, the shopping, the organising, the bill paying, the sheet changing and the cooking and I supervise a son mowing the lawn. Works beautifully. Oh, I’m always on hand to investigate noises in the night, to heavy a rebellious child, to check the oil in her car, to lift the sliding screen door back onto its track, to fix things or to decide to buy a new one, collect the eggs, and in recent years I’ve helped to make the bed, my half of the bed.
But cooking is not in my bag. I know, I won the Hunter show’s men's chocolate cake championship (my wife has hidden the ribbon), and I’m a scone maker of regional fame, and my pizzas are to die for, but, really, these are distractions with my wife on hand as the gofer while she snaps ‘‘why don’t you actually look next time!’’ and ‘‘I hope you’re going to clean this up!’’. You could say I am the executive chef, full of good ideas and a little rusty on technique.
So I’ve had to brush up. Before she left, my wife showed me how to work the washing machine, but a recently separated workmate has just told me that he drops his dirty clothes off to a laundromat and picks them up clean and folded for $15 and that sounds like a lot less hassle to me. And folding is as good as ironing, I reckon. I prefer clothes that don’t need ironing or unironed clothes that do, anyway, and if my son’s school uniform needs ironing I hope his mother showed him how to use the iron.
Cooking is the more pressing issue. I always get my own breakfast and lunch but dinner is the main meal at our place and the meal I have seldom prepared. While she was in hospital last year I cooked steamed vegetables or heated a can of Stagg Dynamite Chili Con Carne, which I picked off the supermarket shelf on account of the dynamite reference and which is almost devoid of chilli but good just the same. My son chose cans of ravioli, which he assures me is better than steamed veg.
Before she left my wife gave me a crash course on how to use the rice cooker and panfry dumplings, and together we’ve written a list of things I can buy and things I can cook. The first list is short because I’m not at all keen on takeaway Asian (it stews), or Indian (at least in Newcastle), or Maccas, or American pizzas, so it’s a list of two things, felafel kebabs and pide. The cooking list is longer and includes panfrying bought dumplings, steamed veg, barbecued snags, spaghetti with Paul Newman.
Hardly cooking, I know, but as I discovered last time cooking to eat rather than to fill in an afternoon is much too time consuming for a much too uncertain result. The cleaning up is worse.
Twenty nine days to go.
Have you had to learn the domestic ropes precipitously? Any tips for a batching dinner?