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Parenting & Relationships

The @*&!ing Joy of Cooking with my Mother-in-Law

When my husband (aka Love Rocket) and I got married, er eloped, my concept of having in-laws and all that entailed was murky at best, particularly since I’d never even met his parents. They lived in the U.K. and we were in Los Angeles when we double-dog dared each other to tie the knot. So when friends would bitch and moan about their pushy/disapproving/annoying/interfering mothers-in-law, I didn’t get it. Until we finally made the trek across the ocean to visit. And I tried to cook a meal for the lady. Which is when I realized MIL rhymes with kill.

To be fair, she’s a lovely woman. Did that sound forced and British, determined smile stapled into place, eyes a little too bright? Right. So anytime I quote said mother-in-law, mentally layer her lines with a pinched yet relentlessly¬†pleasantEnglish accent. Mary Poppins on her last good nerve kind of thing.

The idea was for Love Rocket and I to make dinner for The Elders one night. Lady Elder had done most of the cooking thus far and we wanted to do our part — give back, as it were. We stashed her and Lord Elder in the living room with glasses of red wine, and got to work on the menu: Roast lamb with green beans and roasted potatoes.

Except we didn’t have any lamb. Or green beans. We had ham, which, yes, can also be roasted, and runner beans, which, fair enough, are green, but … See, The Elders had apparently reviewed our shopping list, found it wanting and decided in their great wisdom to replace the untoward ingredients with things more fitting. Or something.

We fumed for a bit, got over it and just started cooking. That’s when Lady Elder popped in to “check on things.” Here are the highlights.

Lady Elder: Are you sure the oven’s not a bit too hot for the roast?
Love Rocket: Pretty sure.
Lady Elder: Hmm.
[…] Lady Elder: I’ll just turn it down a bit for you, shall I?
Love Rocket: Mum! The temperature’s fine.
Lady Elder: It’s absolutely no problem. See? Done.
[…] Lady Elder: Well, I’ll just get out of your way. I’m sure you both know what you’re doing.
[…] Lady Elder: Sorry, but will you be roasting any potatoes?
Love Rocket: Yes. Mum. They’re. Right. Here.
Lady Elder: Because you know your father loves roast potatoes.
Me: Would you like some more wine?
Love Rocket: Yes.
Lady Elder: Oh no, I’m fine. It’s in the living room anyway.
Me: But why don’t I pour you another, and you can just relax with it by the fire?
Lady Elder: Oh, that sounds lovely.
[…] Lady Elder: Hello again! I was wondering — were you planning to serve anything for dessert?
Love Rocket: […] Me: […] Lady Elder: A nice stewed fruit is always so pleasant after a meal, don’t you think?
Me: Oh, okay, sure. I can cut up some apples and…
Lady Elder: Here, I’ll just use this area and I won’t be in anyone’s way. Oh, and a pie! No, no, I don’t mind at all. You won’t even notice I’m here.
[Love Rocket wordlessly extends his empty glass for more wine. I fill both glasses.] […] Lady Elder: Do you think the ham’s been in there too long?
Love Rocket: No, Mum.
Lady Elder: I see.
[…] Lady Elder: You’re sure?
Love Rocket: I’m certain, Mum.
Lady Elder: I’ll just take it out for you anyway. Yes, that’s much better. Right, I’m off to the living room. Pretend I wasn’t even here!
[I offer to refill Love Rocket’s glass again. He takes the bottle instead.] […] Lady Elder: Here’s the gravy boat.
Me: Gravy boat?
Lady Elder: For the … oh, you didn’t make any.
Me: Would you like some gravy?
Lady Elder: Well I don’t care really, but … his father, you know.
Me: I can make some really quickly.
Lady Elder: It’s no problem at all. Can you pass the flour?
Love Rocket: Mum, we can make the gravy.
Lady Elder: No need, I’m just mixing it up now. Did you need that pot?
[…] Lady Elder: It’s so nice to have the night off from the kitchen, really. I’m sure it will all be delicious, especially the roasted potatoes with … are those beets? I’ll just go set the table.
[Repeated slugs off the mostly empty bottle of wine, words having failed utterly.]

Which isn’t to say dinner was a complete failure. The Elders quite enjoyed the apple pie, stewed pears and gravy. As for us, well we had the wine. Moral of the story? Take the old bats out to a restaurant.

About the author

Melissa Henderson

With a "See ya, hate to be ya" to the giant parking lot that is Los Angeles, Melissa Henderson sold the car, stuffed her husband into a suitcase and moved back home to Montreal, Canada, where they both now happily roam the streets by foot. She is also Very Busy not working on several unfinished novels.

Trained in journalism and linguistics at UCLA, Melissa has worked as a journalist and editor (news and magazine) since 2001. Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Brand X, Up! Magazine, Soundspike and Greater Long Beach, among other publications.