Just when I thought it was safe to stand at the sink and prepare a salad, Laurel raised the bar on my lettuce washing.
The first class of Lettuce Washing 101, ably taught by my resident instructor, was documented in my February 2004 “American Splendor/I learn to wash lettuce” post. Professor Laurel commented on my blog paper a few days later, taking exception to my use of “evil eye,” which, however, did not actually appear in my rendition.
“Wife eye” did. And this all-seeing, all-knowing force was what I once again felt peering over my shoulder a few nights ago as I was dutifully washing lettuce in precisely the manner previously taught by my Kitchen Commander.
“What are you doing?” she said. A simple question, yet as soon as it left her lips I knew that it was impossible for me to offer a satisfactory answer. I decided, like a Supreme Court nominee being grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee, to make my response as brief as possible, thereby allowing less capacity for having my words twisted against me.
“I’m washing the lettuce,” I said, an excellent truthful answer. But then my verbosity got the better of me and I foolishly added an extra clause. “Just like you’ve told me to do.”
Laurel ran through the opening like a USC tailback on meth. “No, that’s not right. You’re supposed to wash each leaf under running water, not submerge the whole head of lettuce in the salad spinner bowl.”
I started to say, “Objection, your honor! Witness is mischaracterizing the previous proceedings of this case, L. Hines v. B. Hines in the matter of lettuce washing. It has been documented in the court record that the accused was instructed to use the spinner strainer thingie to wash the lettuce, covering the leaves with water and then pushing them up and down.”
I thought of saying all that, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good. I was already indicted, tried, and convicted. The best thing to do was throw myself on the mercy of the court.
“OK, I didn’t know that. Guess I didn’t read the memo.” Oops, right away I regretted the mild sarcasm; I could sense the judge and jury turning less sympathetic. I quickly grabbed a leaf of lettuce and started to rinse it under the faucet.
Bump. I was jostled sideways several feet. “Give me the lettuce,” Laurel said, “I’ll do it myself.” Déjà vu! This was exactly what happened during my last lettuce washing lesson!
More French rattled through my head: C’est la vie! And even more: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!
Once again, I got to cut the carrots. Maybe next week I’ll be allowed to return to washing the lettuce, now that I’ve been given the advanced lettuce washing course. I guess I wasn’t ready until now to appreciate the finer points of this course of study.
“If you just push the leaves up and down in the bowl,” Laurel told me, “grit and stuff can still stay on the lettuce.” I wanted to ask “How?” but silent acquiescence seemed the wisest course of action at this point.
The next day I ran into my workout friend Leo, a fit 80 something, at the Courthouse Athletic Club. He asked, “How’s it going?” as I was putting on my street clothes in the locker room. In my stream of consciousness answer somehow I got around to describing my wifely lettuce washing instruction.
Leo said, “That sounds just like my daughter.”
Then a complete stranger who had been listening to our conversation said from a locker around the corner, “And that also sounds just like my wife.”
The three of us laughed. A nice guy moment.
I’ll be 57 years old in a few weeks. I’ve still got lots to learn. Lettuce Washing 202 awaits me in Wife School, I’m confident of that.