I’m a very good cook. One thing that it has taken me years to accept is that very good cooks sometimes make mistakes, and create something that is completely inedible.
My husband is a decent cook and a brilliant man, and as such, he sometimes gets distracted when he’s cooking. If he is grilling, he will sometimes leave the grill and come inside to listen to music or read something – and then he has a case of “ooh, shiny!” and forgets what he is doing. He did that once while grilling marinated chicken breasts. He made chicken briquettes. Not even the wild animals could eat them. To be fair, he’s only done that once.
I’m an excellent cook and a brilliant woman, and I have a whole damn head full of “OOO shiny!”, but a few episodes with forgetting what I was doing and causing a grease fire have taught me to stay in the kitchen or with the grill when I am cooking.
None of that helped with this particular incident from 1991.
I was a new mother, and I had heard many people advise me before giving birth to put as much food up as I could manage in the last month before giving birth because the first month or so after giving birth was going to be exhausting and I wouldn’t be able to cook the way I used to. I did put up quite a bit of lasagna, turkey casserole, and macaroni and cheese in an effort to make it easier for both myself and my husband. I don’t really remember much of that first month, except panicking that our son would die in his sleep and me not being able to sleep the first three days we were out of the hospital. My sister in law came over and babysat, and I got my first good nap in three days, and the panic subsided a little.
I wasn’t ready. I really wasn’t. I am not sure anyone really is.
It might have been a month in, or six weeks – I don’t really remember. We were running out of pre-cooked meals, and I was getting tired of pasta dishes, so I decided to make Chili. Our son was born at the end of November, so it was cold and chili seemed like a good idea. And I could have a beer with my chili – which I had been told was also good for letting my milk down to breastfeed.
So I started making the chili, and I had a good pot of it going on the stove. Things were bubbling along nicely, but it didn’t smell like chili, so I assumed I had forgotten to put in the chili powder. I didn’t taste the chili, I just measured in a tablespoon of chili powder and stirred it in.
I started to make some cornbread to go with the chili, and as I was halfway through that, I looked over and saw the chili powder sitting on the stove. “Oh, I must have forgotten to put in the chili powder!” So I measured a tablespoon, poured it in, and stirred up the chili.
My husband came home to a pot of chili and some fresh cornbread and a beer. Justin was sleeping, just having been fed himself, and we sat down to eat our dinner.
He takes one spoonful of his chili. “This smells really spicy…” he says, and then put the spoonful of chili in his mouth. He grabs a bite of cornbread, then a big swig of beer, and I see tears running out of his eyes. I get a spoonful up to my face, and the fumes cause me to start coughing. I can’t even smell it, let alone taste it!
We didn’t have enough to cut the chili with that night, so we ordered a pizza and ate cornbread and put the chili in the fridge until I could make another batch to add to this one – this time without the chili powder.
When he told his mother, she just laughed and said that was part of the territory, new moms have Baby Brain and they can’t pay attention to much for a while.
If you know someone who is a new mother, and you’d like to do something for them, offer to babysit a while so they can take a nap, or a bath, or do something for themselves. Bring them a home-cooked meal, or make them something they can reheat and serve to their family later. If you’re close, offer to wash her hair for her, or do some laundry.
If you ARE a new mother, here’s a couple of nursing tips –
Babies don’t like the taste of chili. It does show up in the breastmilk apparently.
Oddly enough, so does garlic, and my son nursed longer when I ate a meal heavy with garlic. He still loves garlic to this day.
Beer really does help you relax and let the milk down. So does wine. So does a good warm bath.
Coconut oil (as long as you aren’t allergic to it) is your friend. Rub your belly with it all the time – it’s good for your skin.
And don’t feel bad if you do forget something, or put your car keys in the freezer, or end up with a pair of socks stuck to the back of your pants all day long – you will be in good company.
Seriously, our brains just seem to fall out for a while.