I was sitting with my husband in our sorry little kitchen. It’s small. Totally old school with a swinging hinged door that closes you in. No modern open floor plan where the kitchen blends into the family room. I love our little 1700-square foot Spanish Bungalow, but I’m never sure it’s where he feels most at home -- but that’s a whole other story that I may, or may not, get back to.
This night, I had thrown together a meal. I hate cooking. It’s not something I’m that great at. It’s always a struggle. And lately, I have gotten even lazier than the naturally lazy person I was when we had kids at home. So, I might make a “salad” of pre-washed lettuce that I throw in a bowl, and my husband will make fun of the little effort that went into it. I’ll serve it with a large potato that we share -- and he will inform me that for now we can still afford two potatoes – though with retirement looming, we may soon have to cut back to one.
He was deep in thought. We have five kids. We often worry about one or another or sometimes all, so I thought he must be brooding about a child. I love to communicate. I’m a woman. A communicator. So I asked.
“What are you thinking about?”
“My new coffeemaker.”
“Seriously? You’re that deep in thought about your COFFEEMAKER?”
You see my husband hangs onto things. He owns the same watch for decades, nothing fancy like a Rolex, and refuses to let me buy him a new one as a gift. He figures out ways to fix, to clean, preserve. He looks up serial numbers and buys new parts. A repair seems to bring out the challenge in him. And for most of these qualities I’m grateful, because maybe he won’t be turning me in for a younger, newer model. Maybe.
And now he is in mourning over the loss of his beloved coffeemaker. They were together for fifteen years. A serious relationship. He took pride in making a great cup, make that several cups, with it each morning. It was a machine with few bells and whistles. My husband detests the bells and whistles. He doesn’t love the look of plastic surgery either, which could work in my favor. Not that I’m judging my friends who like a little nip, a little tuck, but I don’t think I want to indulge in elective surgery.
“What exactly were you thinking about your new coffeemaker?”
He isn’t in love. He is having a hard time perfecting a decent cup of coffee. The filter is a different shape. Instead of cone-shaped, this one is basket-style. He looked at me accusingly, and said that if it were not for me, he would still be happily making our morning coffee with the old one.
I now need to tell you what happened with the erstwhile machine. For several weeks, we’d been noticing bugs scooting along our kitchen counter. Little black ones. We thought they might be coming from food, like a bag of rice or flour or something. I should mention I do bake, I just don’t cook a great proper meal. One night, very late, I threw out EVERYTHING that might be the culprit. I had a great time going through cabinets, disposing of old bottles and bags of this and that. So not like me. Yet, a week later, my husband said he had killed two dozen of these little creatures that morning. Just smashed them with his bare hands. He was proud, describing an epic David and Goliath battle in which he was David. Still, we were now completely puzzled as to where they hailed from. They were always right near the coffee maker.
So, the Braun was put outside for a day in a Hefty bag and tied shut. Sure enough, when the bag was opened, many bugs were found dead. We’re now sure that a couple of cockroaches moved into our coffeemaker’s underside vent, and lead parallel lives to ours, having sex and kids, and probably worrying about them too. When the machine started perking in the morning and became too hot, the babies ran out, scurrying over the countertop. Are you as grossed out as I am?
I saw a light go on in my husband’s head. I jumped on him. “NO, you cannot bring that disgusting machine back in the house!” He swore to me that he could clean it well enough and that it would be as good as new. “No fucking way. Sorry. No.” And that, my friends, is why we have a new coffeemaker. Old school. A Mr. Coffee. No bells, maybe one whistle.
Speaking of places to live, I will get back to where home is for my husband. In 1977, he came out to Los Angeles for work. And he still considers himself to be on an extended business trip. A trip during which, he married and had two kids. Divorced. Married me. Landed in Pacific Palisades, this cozy place I call home. He kept his apartment in New York -- the place he calls home.
His work is finally coming to an end in May. Retirement. Dinners sharing one potato. Maybe. Because that’s when I will find out where he really plans to live. I’m concerned, because the New York kitchen has a Braun with a cone-shaped filter.
Fredrica Duke shares how she discovered her love of food while growing up in Los Angeles on her blog Channeling the Food Critic in Me.