Kids leave, space returns

August 28, 2007|By SUSAN REIMER

It is back-to-school time for the college set, and plenty of parents, who will miss their kids like crazy in less than a week, are glad to have their bathrooms and their car keys back. Not to mention a good night's sleep.

Me? I can't wait to get the refrigerator back.

My daughter, Jessie, the budding foodie, has been home for the summer working two jobs. But the hunger such a workload might trigger isn't the reason my sink is always filled with dirty dishes.

The child doesn't eat much, but she cooks like crazy.

As a result, my refrigerator and my pantry are filled with an assortment of artisanal, imported, specialty, gourmet and organic ingredients the likes of which Whole Foods and Trader Joe's would be hard-pressed to duplicate.

There isn't room for so much as a carton of milk, what with the pomegranate juice, green tea and Red Bull taking up all the space on the shelf.

And the humble Swiss and the cheddar slices I buy for my pathetic little sandwiches have been crowded out by Jessie's collection of goat cheese, Greek feta, imported Parmesan-Reggiano and water-packed mozzarella - not to mention the roasted red peppers and Kalamata olives.

There is creme fraiche, marscapone, sour cream and ricotta, applewood bacon and prosciutto.

I'm sure it is all necessary, for some midnight recipe or another. But I can't find room for a jar of salsa.

And the produce bins at the bottom of the fridge are a wonder. We have more baby lettuces than a lettuce day care center, as well as mangoes, kiwifruit, passion fruit, lemons and limes, raspberries, blueberries and Bing cherries.

God forbid there should be something as pedestrian as an apple in there.

Likewise, the pantry is filled with whole wheat pasta, orzo, basmati rice, bulgar wheat, couscous, wheat berry and wild rice. My box of Kraft macaroni and cheese got shoved to the back.

There are bottles of 25-year-old balsamic vinegar and flavored olive oils on the shelves, along with tiny jars of exotic mustards and honey collected by highly compensated bees. On the theory that you shouldn't cook with it if you wouldn't drink it, she buys only the best wines.

In the cellar, there are Spanish onions, Vidalia onions, shallots, elephant garlic, Yukon gold baby potatoes and sweet potatoes for roasting.

In the freezer, there are the tiniest little lamb chops, pork tenderloin and filet mignon wrapped in bacon. OK. I bought the filets. But I wanted to keep up. I was starting to feel bad about myself.

Jessie is sweet about it, but she polices the diets of her parents as if she is working for Homeland Security.

I am not allowed to drink Diet Coke around Jessie, and she frowns when I drink more than one latte a day. It is water, green tea or nothing. And she makes healthy little dinners for her father that would put NutriSystem and Dan Marino out of business.

As you might guess, I pay for the groceries during the summer and she does the shopping. But sending Jessie to the store is like sending a man. You get a lot of what you didn't ask for and nothing on the list. Only with Jessie, it costs a fortune.

I'd be better off picking up her bar tab.

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