My husband recently organized the dry goods cupboard in our kitchen. On one hand, this is a good thing, because he suffers from a disease commonly referred to as the "Y Chromosome Refrigerator Blindness". This sad disorder is characterized an almost debilitating inability to find anything if it is located behind something else.
True, the name is somewhat misleading. For one thing, the blindness is not limited to cooling appliances. That box of Fruit Loops behind the peanut butter in the cupboard is just as invisible as a gallon of milk behind the half-eaten apple in the fridge. Also, my husband would challenge the link between object-specific blindness and the Y chromosome, despite the fact that I've never had a male relative who hasn't suffered from the condition. My husband isn't too far off track with that one, though. I can't get too cocky when I point to the watermelon chilling behind a hard boiled egg, because he can turn around and ask, "Where's your wallet?"
The disease may be "Y Chromosome Refrigerator Blindness", but it appears to have a counterpart called, "X Chromosome Car Key Amnesia". The more X chromosomes an individual possesses, the greater likelihood (s)he will be delayed when trying to leave the house by an inability to find: shoes, wallet, car keys, coat, purse, small children, the front door, etc. My mother's goal in life is to leave the house and make it out the door without having to come back in for something she forgot. It doesn't matter how recently I've just come in from an errand, fully equipped -- if I have to go back out, it requires a lengthy and agonizing search as to where I've left everything I need.
I can always find the caramel for the ice cream. My husband always knows what "safe place" I've put my wallet in. Maybe we don't suffer from genetically linked diseases -- it could just be true love and destiny. Who knows. Whichever it is, my husband organizing the dry goods cupboard was a positive step, like me hanging my car keys up on the key rack. I was so proud of him that it was almost easy to endure an hour of "Hey! Did you know we had...?"
In fact, the only problem I had with it is that I started to feel a little threatened. It's not that the kitchen is my territory. Far from it. My husband does most of the cooking. He likes it, he's good at it, and I eat anything that isn't nailed down or moldy. I'm not precisely a lousy cook, but I seem to have some wires crossed with cultural influences and cooking. The nuns in my school must have taught us all the stories about those 13th century monks and their self-flagellation right before lunch, because I tend to choose my meals based on self deprivation and discipline rather than tastiness.
"What do you want for dinner?" my husband will ask.
"Sawdust and bran," I suggest. "It's low fat and high in fiber. Plus, if we suffer now, perhaps God will forgo greater punishment for our sins in the afterlife."
"I'll cook," he says.
So when my husband started cleaning out the cupboards, it wasn't that he was messing up my system. No, I felt threatened because I didn't want to be cut completely out of the loop. He cooks better than I do. He cleans up just fine. If he doesn't need me to find things for him, then maybe my presence in the kitchen won't be necessary at all. That's taking things just a little too far. I felt the need to put my foot down and show my husband just who wears the dress in our house. (Actually, the only family members who wear dresses in this house are the cats. We like to stuff them into our daughter's frilly infant gowns and watch them drag themselves about in annoyance. Which is kind of how I look when I'm trying to do anything in the kitchen, come to think of it.)
In order to prove my dominance over the kitchen, then, I took it upon myself to organize the spice cabinet. Immediately I saw the clues that the main cook in our kitchen suffered from Refrigerator Blindness. We have two containers of orange extract, three of garlic powder, four each of pepper and chicken bouillon, six jars of cinnamon and eight assorted containers of table salt, most of which were behind each other and therefore "invisible". Those didn't trouble me too much. We use all those fairly regularly. What disturbed me was that we have three containers of dill.
I've never used dill. My husband has never used dill. Why do we have three containers of it? Who has been cooking in our kitchen? Moreover, what have they been cooking in our kitchen? I don't even know what you use dill for, besides making pickles. But I had to find out, because I had to find a way to use up all that dill. My husband said to throw it out, but I refused.
You see, if I throw it out, the dill wins.
I talked to my mother. "Fish," she said.
"Fish?" I asked. "You can't use dill in anything else?"
I asked the neighbors. They suggested you could use dill in tartar sauces, chip dips and potato salad. One of them suggested it was useful for distributing cards in poker games. Before I could slap her, another friend told me dills were what bucks quacked through. I gave up. Let the dill win. I'll throw it out. And while I'm at it, I'll let my husband wear the dress.
This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin, and in the Piker Press 2004-01-10.