2 Nov 2010

Finding Meaning

This is an account of Day 7 of the 50s Housewife Experiment: Husband Obsessed Edition.

Here's how our morning started:

Patrick: Are we getting a bunny?

Jen: What? No.

Patrick: Then ... are you pregnant?

Jen: Uh, no ...

Patrick: Is someone we know coming out of the closet?

Jen: *Flabbergasted*

Patrick: There's an all-female version of Jaws being made?

The cause for all the confusion lay in what I had presented to my husband for breakfast on Sunday morning. Perhaps I was partially to blame - after all, I had given Patrick a message-in-a-food-item (the star cookies) earlier this week and he couldn't help but try to understand what this meant:
This absurd item, a Grapefruit Basket, was featured in my Modern Household Encyclopedia and I thought it would be an interesting way to mark our last 50s housewife breakfast. After all, Patrick had turned a corner with grapefruit and it was Halloween - something had to be carved. My attempt turned out much sloppier than what was shown in the book, but it's the effort that counts, right? Wrong? Fine.

While I was clawing out the grapefruit's pink flesh like some kind of starved animal that had just made a kill, I wondered which fueled "the problem that has no name" more - The Nag Jar or this kind of thing?

I mean, women were and are brimming with intelligence, talent and time and they were being encouraged to use it on stuff like Grapefruit Baskets (of course, if you're a very crafty type and you want to do that kind of thing on a regular basis, more power to you!). I wondered if the husbands of the time respected and appreciated the Grapefruit Basket. If anything, it probably led to a greater belief that housewives were silly little creatures, or if they were like my husband, that their wives were drunk on pregnancy hormones.

Moving on ...

It was Halloween and even though no Trick or Treaters go door to door in our condo building, I thought I should prepare some treats just in case. I figured that unlike in modern times, a 50s housewife could have given out cookies at her door (try that now and see how quickly a parent swoops in to accuse you of trying to poison their kid. Actually, don't try - some parents be scary). I found a sugar cookie recipe that involved dying the dough different shades with food colouring and then combining them to have a rather swirled effect. This was perfect as the only seasonal cookie cutters I had were of leaf shapes and this style of dough could work well as leaves.

They didn't turn out so bad, eh? (although, in later batches the colours blended into each other a bit too much and the cookies just turned out rather murky looking):

Surprisingly, I was again faced with a what-did-real-50s-housewives-feel-about-all-this-thought when I came across a strange sight in my cookbook.

It was The Saddest Cookie Of All Time (from Good Housekeeping's Cookie Book):
Anytime I've ever seen a face on a cookie, it's smiling (or maybe surprised - gingerbread men are easily shocked). This cookie was having none of it. Its little eyes were stony and dead. Its little mouth was down-turned and depressed. It was an absolutely joyless cookie and I couldn't help but wonder what the woman who made it was thinking or feeling at the time.

Was she feeling blue about having to make yet another cookie?

Was she feeling guilty about feeling sad about her life?

Was she the cookie?

Was this line of questioning making me question my own sanity? (Yes.)

My staring and probing into the meaning of this cookie was thankfully interrupted by our one and only Trick or Treater, Charlotte. The little nugget was dressed up as an robot-slash-alien, complete with tinfoil boots made by her mom. The look was adorably more bug than Borg.
Charlotte and her parents came in for a little visit, during which time the kiddo - still adjusting to certain solid foods - shoved cookie bits right to the back of her throat, gagged, chewed, gagged a bit more, and then repeated the process. Not used to seeing small children eat, I was a tad alarmed. Her parents were well used to it though and just calmly watched her munch away. I was quite thankful we weren't forced into a situation where 1950s-era medical advice was needed, like these instructions for performing artificial resuscitation (from the Modern Household Encyclopedia):

Check that out.

  1. Get the person on the ground, face-down (where the air is freshest and flowing) so his weight is on his chest.
  2. Teabag the back of his head.
  3. Put pressure on his arms and shoulders - they're crucial to breathing.
Anyway, before we knew it, the Dells were off to a Halloween gathering and Patrick moseyed into our room to watch a zombie movie on TV. I also had something spooky and scary to occupy my time with: a bathroom to clean. Oh, lucky me.

Despite regular cleanings, the tub always had a rather dingy look to it. Siobhan had reminded me earlier in the week about a solution that worked in her bathroom: you basically create a large batch of paste out of baking soda and vinegar. You then cake it on the areas that need brightening. Let it sit there for an hour while you go back to wondering about that sad cookie do the rest of your cleaning. Then, come back and scrub the paste off. Like magic, the surface is instantly more clean and bright! This helps on grout and even burn marks on glass stove tops, too.

Aren't cleaning tips wonderful?

If you think Jen was being sarcastic in the statement above, press 1. If you think Jen was being sincere in the statement above, press 2. If you think Jen experienced a strange mix of both sincerity and sarcasm that has her questioning what she even believes anymore, collect your prize.

Before I knew it, it was time to get dinner on. It being our last meal of this 50s housewife experiment, I opted to make it one that Patrick would really enjoy. Smelling that supper was nearly ready, Patrick emerged from his man-cave.

Emotional! Antennae! Activated! Husband Status: Giddy

He trotted around the kitchen and dining room happily asking every thirty seconds if the meal was ready. While Patrick was doing this jokingly and with a big, goofy smile on his face, it reminded me of yet another off-putting thing I recently found in my Good Housekeeping cookbooks.

I'm going to convince myself that this picture is showing a man with a starting gun and a timer, and that this husband is "helping" his wife to see how fast she can get something cooked. The other scenario that popped in my head ("I'm hungry and if this meal ain't done cooking in 3 minutes, I'm going to shoot you!") is too horrifying to consider.

But back to my gun-free kitchen ...

Patrick was excited because it was a meal he would practically eat everyday if he could; steak and homemade french fries. This dish is the way to my man's heart. I cooked the steak rare using a recipe that relied on a fair amount of Worcestershire sauce for marinade and butter for the frying, so it came out pretty ... juicy. In an attempt to healthify things, I added something called a Sunshine Salad - it's your basic green salad with sliced oranges and chopped almonds. This got completely canceled out when I paired the meal with a glass of scotch.

If you use your hand to block out the salad (and maybe that sprig of parsley garnish), this is about the "manniest" meal ever created. All that's missing from this picture are a bunch of onions, an ashtray with a lit cigar and a toilet with its seat up.


Patrick polished off dinner quite happily, or in his words, "ate the fuck out of it." Tsk, tsk ... such crass language for my 50s housewife ears. Ah, crap! *Throws another $2 into The Nag Jar*

To cap the dining experience off, I took a gamble and made a pie. As you'll recall, pie is something Patrick is "unimpressed" with. I was sure that I could let him see the light on this, especially since he enjoyed the pie-wrapped pork wellington so much earlier in the week.

I'll admit that I could have put more effort into this chocolate pie by adding a whipped cream topping design or something more original than fork impressions along crust. The chocolate pudding filling also turned out lumpier than I imagined. The odds were against this pie.

"What's not to love about this?" Patrick exclaimed after he took his first bite.

Ah, sweet victory! You can bet that the rest of the things on that picky-eater list will be tested in the near future, too.

On that high note, I decided to wrap up my 50s housewife duties. I poured myself a martini and selected a book from the shelf that I had dared not look at during this week:

I turned and saw Patrick's face. I couldn't quite peg where I had seen that expression before...

Ah well.

In a few days I'll be back with a post covering my general observations / results / lessons from having lived by the 1950s husband-obsessed advice for a week. Look for it shortly!


MMM,  3:48 pm, November 02, 2010  

Charlotte may have gagged eating the cookie, but I was gagging from laughter reading this! Any chance you'll do another experiment?

Anonymous,  5:03 pm, November 02, 2010  

My face looks like that sad cookie now that your experiment is over.

Ann,  7:02 pm, November 02, 2010  

"Teabag the back of his head." LOL!

Anonymous,  10:24 pm, November 02, 2010  

fabulous week for me.. laughed every day .. keep it up jen...t

Karen 10:56 am, November 03, 2010  

This and your previous experiment have been so interesting to read - funny and entertaining but I actually liked that I picked up tips and recipes too!

Hope you do another one (maybe without the nag jar though ... heehee)!

Jen 1:47 pm, November 03, 2010  

Thanks, dudes.

There's other stuff in the works, so this likely isn't the last of the housewife experiments from this ol' gal. :)

Bootzey 2:00 pm, November 03, 2010  

An easy way to brighten the tub is to fill it as high as it will go with hot water. Then pour a half of container of bleach in there. Let it sit for a few hours or overnight. Brightened bathtub. You don't have to do this more than 1 time per month. But have the drain on a long chain so you don't have to go fishing around in the bleach water to empty it.

Mary 12:36 pm, November 05, 2011  

i have to reply to the prior suggestion to brighten the tub with half a jug of bleach. are you fucking nuts? do you know what bleach does to the environment let alone to the lungs of you and your family who inhale the fumes of a steaming half jug of bleach once a month? I'm glad I'm not living in your house.

Rubel hossen 1:37 pm, August 29, 2022  

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Need words? I'm a Toronto-based freelance writer who injects great ones into blogs, websites, magazines, ads and more. So many services, one lovely Jen (with one 'n').

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