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Invisible chef

It would be nice for once if my family could see me for me, and not just the gatekeeper to their culinary pleasures.

"I am a multi-faceted person with feelings," I cried out just other day.

"Did you say something?" My husband peered beneath a pot cover.

"Is it ready? My daughter asked.

My dog trudged to his bowl to see if anything had dropped.

If only someone had told me when I said "I do," that meant bake, saut and stir fry; or that forevermore I would become responsible for other people's food-shopping, meal-prepping and pantry-organizing; or, most stressful, that I would need to tap an endless well of creativity - something High School Home Economics left me ill-prepared for, with their tutorials for canned tomato soup and tuna melts.

Before Lockdown, I tried giving up and ordering in, but we blew up like pufferfish from the sodium and fat. I even tried foisting shopping on them. But their supermarket runs yielded bags of cookies and ice cream.

"Where are the vegetables? Where's the protein?" I asked my husband.

"I'm not in the mood for goulash," he begged, referring to the last few one-pot concoctions I tried.

It's true, my cooking mojo isn't what it used to be - particularly now that I'm experiencing shelter-in-place performance anxiety, as our pleasure is heavily dependent on meals. It seems the more recipes I try, and the harder I try to follow them, the more leaden my muffins turn out. Still, I resent being invisible until the hunger pangs kick in.

This morning, I spent the better part of 10 minutes telling my husband a story, to which he replied, "Were you talking to me?"

"Well, it wasn't the dog." Who then, at the sound of my voice, walked to his food bowl and peered in.

Pavlov needn't have experimented with a bell in my household. My voice alone is enough to make them salivate. "Are you doing your online schoolwork?" I asked my daughter just yesterday.

"Huh?" She looked up from her computer? "What did you say you're making?"

Yesterday, determined to get them to see me for something other than a chow producer, I dug out an old Halloween costume of a top hat and tuxedo pants, and tapped a jig.

"I think I hear something," my daughter said, walking past me.

"Might be Fedex." My husband peered out the kitchen door. I set my cane on the counter, and removed from the oven a tray of overcooked baked ziti.

"Dinner!"

Their forks clanking, mouths full, I jammed it all in: tell me about your FaceTime conversations, Zoom, everything.

They talked a storm. I clung to every word and moment of eye contact, every question asked of me.

Their chairs scraped as they got up.

"Are you guys up for a game of Crazy 8's?" I called. But their ears had closed. Already maudlin for their company, I employed the day's final weapon:

"Who wants dessert?"

- Heather Siegel

Heather Siegel is the author of the forthcoming memoir,The King & The Quirky: A Memoir of Love, Marriage, Domesticity, Feminism & Self(Regal House Publishing, June 2020), and her writing has appeared onSalon.com, in literary magazines and on various popular parenting and relationship websites.

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