How to mess up a meat loaf – and grow a marriage

Bad pic...but yes, this is me, nineteen, a bride, and in THAT kitchen.
Bad pic…but yes, this is me, nineteen, a bride, and in THAT kitchen.

I had much to learn as a bride at nineteen. But the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him ,” and the Lord God knows I tried to be that helper to my man.

My enthusiasm surpassed my ignorance, in the kitchen at least. The fried eggs, sunny side up, I cooked on the morning following our honeymoon looked scrumptious – until I tried to take them out of the pan, when they became scrambled. (Don’t ask me how I escaped high school Home Economics classes without learning that eggs need a pat of butter or a squirt of oil in the pan first.)

Walking into our apartment kitchen, a week or two after the eggs, my new husband waved his nose around, grinning. “Hmmm, what’s cooking?”

“Meat loaf.”

He looked puzzled. “We had no ground beef. Did you go to the store? ”

“No.”

“Where’d you get the ground beef, then?”

“Made it myself,” I said. All proud. “I used the leftover cooked roast beef from our dinner last night. Ground it in the food processor. Then I just followed the recipe.” I recited the loaf’s ingredients, as listed in the classic Bride’s Book of Ideas – his wedding gift to me. Eggs, oatmeal, cornflakes, spices, catsup. “We had everything!”

“But,” he stammered, “no ground beef! Cooked roast beef plus a food processor equals pureed roast beef, not ground beef.”

I waved off that small clarification. “Semantics. Same thing.”

“No. It’s not,” he said, louder. “Not even close. Ground beef is HAMBURGER. And we had NONE!”

Many tears (mine) later, the oven spit out the most fragrant brick any home kitchen has seen. We ate out that evening – but over dinner Rick learned that at my childhood home, the only name for hamburger was hamburger. Not ground beef.

I told that story to the grandbeans the other day. “But you’re a really good cook now, Nana,” they said.

“Yes,” I said. “I am. But I had to make a lot of mistakes first. And each one taught me something.” Those first mistakes taught us both. They taught me, first of all, that I’d married up, at least in the “plain good cookin’” department – my groom was already an experienced cook. And they taught him the meaning of the term “long suffering.” (Thank God he committed till death parts us.)

And this (yes, really) is the Preacher...same place, same time. Oh dear...did I really make him that jumpsuit?
And this (yes, really) is the Preacher…same place, same time. Oh dear…did I really make him that jumpsuit?

The Preacher began sharing the cooking after that. He still does. Some days, when I come home from work, he has a savory loaf ready – using no meat at all, according to my preference for vegetables.

We’ve had to muddle through far greater messes than unintentionally scrambled eggs and fragrant meat-bricks. We still muddle sometimes. But our mistakes always teach us, when we stop being too pig-headed to learn. And with God’s help, our love has stuck. Happy thirty-eighth anniversary, Hon.