Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Back to the Kitchen

I wish Matt would blog. He has learned so many interesting things on the railroad; every day he comes home and tells me something new and I wish he would write it down so that knowledge isn't lost. It's not big-deal stuff: tall tales, histories of nicknames (everyone has a nickname on the railroad), hints and tricks and what things mean. Sometimes you tell who's running the train by how he blows the whistle at crossings. You can figure out what mine the train filled up at by how the taconite is loaded into the cars. Hand signals are their own language, and while you can learn the vocabulary, it takes years to be fluent and develop your own accent.

Working in what is essentially an 19th-century-style job (see also: newspapers) is such an unusual opportunity and I'm glad both of us have had the chance to do just that. (Matt's job is so old, OSHA doesn't apply to railroad workers!) While the schedule is a pain in the ass, I'm proud of the work he does and of him for making the switch to this in the first place.

The problem is, I've been slacking.

I talk a lot about how one of these days I'll take a whole day and make a big mess o' pasties for him to take to work, like a real engineer should. I work at home, right? I should have the time and gumption to do something like that. But I haven't. During fall and winter, I think I do a pretty good job of making big batches of soup, stew, pot pies, roasts, and so on, so he can bring home-cooked food for supper. The problem is, if he is on a road job (as opposed to shuttling cars around in the yard), he doesn't have access to a microwave. There is a radiator in the train he can put his food on to warm up, but it would melt the Tupperware pieces we store leftovers in. We're looking into stainless food storage, but in the meantime, if he has a road job, he either packs a sandwich and a bunch of fresh fruit or vegetables, or brings along soup or ravioli in a pull-top can and puts it on the radiator to heat up.


The other day, he was working a road job with a new conductor, a young, earnest guy, former military, Catholic, nice wife with two kids and another on the way, really likes his new job. The two of them hit it off and found they felt the same way about a lot of things, such as what this job should entail, and what role the union should play, and so on. They pulled out their meals and started eating their lunches. The new guy had some leftover pot roast and potatoes and (IIRC) some homemade pie in a nice lunch box. Matt put his canned Progresso on the radiator to warm up and started peeling a clementine. The new guy looked at the leftover plastic grocery bag Matt had brought his food in, then at the forlorn can on the radiator, then at Matt, and said politely, "I thought you said your wife was at home?"



  1. Hmmm. No. That's not how I see it.

  2. Anonymous8:50 AM

    Try a camping store - they have great little steel pots and pans with lids that close and secure. My favorite is "Abyrvalg" but they may not have a branch in your area.

  3. Beverly -- help! Is there another possible interpretation?

    Anon -- I bet the shipping costs are murder on those.

  4. WHat does IIRC stand for?

  5. If I recall correctly.

  6. Two thoughts: First, if Matt really wanted to one-up the coworker as a radiator gourmet, he should try a fondue pot . Then you can send him on his way with a pot of cheese and a baguette and some raw veggies and he's good. I've never tried it but I rather like the idea of two railroad engineers sitting around the radiator dipping fondue.

    Second thought - you should try those tin lunch boxes called tiffins? Bombay housewives send to their hubbies using a delivery service called a Dabbawala . I saw a documentary on it once - the delivery system is amazing though obviously the formalized gender role thing is a whole 'nother issue.

    Amazon's got some that are fair trade and if you just add it to something you're already ordering from them (like books, 'natch) you can oftentimes get free shipping.

  7. Anonymous12:29 PM

    Instead of taking cold food and heating it up, take hot food and keep it warm in a big thermos. Google "soup thermos."
    Your sister

  8. funnie3:41 PM

    heya Krup, I'm with Beverly, & I have a million possible alternate interpretations for you! :p

    But I think they all overstep. I don't know what the norm is in your family, what your food habits are, what makes you feel good, or why you think the current plan is insufficient.

    So, instead, (rhetorical) questions -- what do ideas like "gumption" and "slacking" mean to you? Why do you think they don't/do apply? What are you working on? What do you want to accomplish? Are you seizing some time off (as in OFF-off, not fake-off like most women)? Is this a question really about effort? energy? priorities? generosity? expectations? confusion? appearances? food storage?

    What I *really* want to say, is -- I'm SO! happy! you're blogging again. And (as always) I LOVE LOVE LOVE your banner pic. Good to read you!

  9. funnie3:42 PM

    ps (what a surprise) your sis cracks me up.

  10. Funnie, I have to say I love your comment because I am SO GLAD to hear from you!

    This post was meant to be a funny look at how our priorities might be different than other families'. Any perceived poking at myself is ironic -- I don't think the current plan is insufficient, because at this point I'm happy with the amount of homemade food (cheaper, healthier) I give the fam, and we accept that when Matt's on road jobs, we don't have the equipment to send homemade soup/roasts with him in a way that's useful to him (the radiators are, like, three inches wide, which pose the challenge, and make them perfect for canned goods -- or pasties, if I were to make them, which can be an all-day job, which is why I haven't made them yet. That is more effort than I want to put into cooking at this time).

    The conductor seems to be OK eating cold roast, something Matt does not like doing, so if he wants hot food on the road, at this point, it will come in a can. Or, possibly, a soup thermos, although carrying that and a coffee thermos could be problematic.

    Matt relating the story was not a reproach to me, and me blogging about it was not self-flagellation -- just a little tee-hee at how people have different priorities.

  11. funnie2:24 PM

    AH, ha, sorry. I obvs blew past the tongue in your check & totally read it like you were in fact feeling "busted" compared to this other family. Or seriously rueing some kind of energy loss or something!

    If by "pasties" you mean the thing I'm thinking of (english empanadas?), I have to say that budgeting a whole day to make them in bulk is prob the smart thing to do, holy crap. If that's gumption, I too lack it.

    I have missed typing to you tons, and miss reading you even more, which I know isn't fair, since I don't write. :p

  12. funnie2:29 PM

    the tongue in your check = an especially reluctant or exuberant form of payment.

  13. I thought you were feeling like a slacker because of your husband's lack of home-cooked food. I just thought the guy's comment was rude.
    And Mach1 needs to learn how to use google. :-)