One of the worst things about being married to Steve (not that it was necessarily bad) was how damn perfect the man was. Beyond the natural enhancements, Steve was caring, attentive, a fantastic gift giver, and a near perfect chef. No matter what gift she could conjure up for him, or how many intimate evenings the two of them would share, Peggy always found herself feeling just a few steps behind.
And now that Steve was turning forty-- or thirty-three, or maybe it was a little over one hundred and six, Peggy felt it was a monumental enough day to finally try something out of her comfort zone for him.
Pot roast and mashed potatoes.
The recipe looked relatively simple compared to the others stashed away within Steve's collection of cookbooks, and Peggy was not one to say no to a challenge. She picked the ingredients up on the way back from work that afternoon and eyed them critically as she mentally and physically prepared herself for this attempt at womanly domesticity.
“Daddy birfday fingers?” Sarah asks, kicking her legs off the kitchen counter and holding up her own fingers quizzically.
“Forty,” Peggy replies, taking a pot out of the cabinet.
Sarah’s mouth goes agape. “He’s old .” she says in awe, unable to process someone being so ‘old’.
Steve winces, holding a hand over his heart dramatically. “I’m deeply hurt, Sarah.”
Sarah giggles, playfully repeating, "Daddy old, Daddy old."
"Are you sure you want to make dinner? I'm perfectly fine with pizza and fireworks like last year."
"I want to do this for you, and also a little bit for me. Go spend some time with that painting you've been wanting to finish for months, and I can handle it."
"Do you want me to take Sarahbear?"
"Sarah help!" the toddler insists.
Wanting to avoid a tantrum, Peggy shakes her head, "It's fine. We'll work together. My mother always wanted me to sit and help her cook a meal and I always rejected it."
"Okay, but, do you need me to wash the vegetables for you or…"
“You,” Peggy pokes at Steve’s chest. “Need to let us start cooking. I can’t do this if you’re breathing down my neck, Darling.”
“Alright, alright, I’m leaving.”
Peggy flips open the cookbook, turning on the oven a few moments later." We're going to make the potatoes last, just because it takes three hours for the pot roast to cook."
Sarah shimmies her diapered behind to the fridge, wanting to help in any way possible.
The uncooked roast eyes Peggy critically as she takes it from the refrigerator and places it on the counter.
"Your father says we need to rinse the meat before we eat it because that's what they do to in the future. While I do that, can you… can you get napkins for Mummy to put on the table?"
Only having a few minutes left on the roast timer, Peggy sets out to peel the potatoes. While the original recipe for the roast had called for potatoes as well, Peggy was certain this was one side dish she could make without assistance.
She makes quick work of peeling them, (knife skills being a domestic chore she was already good at) and mixing and mashing the milk, potatoes, butter and spices together. Once fully mixed, Peggy leaves the mixture unattended to find a pot deep enough to cook them in.
"Paytoes." Sarah's pudgy fingers dive into the bowl, squeezing the delicacy excitedly before stuffing her fist in her mouth.
“Sarah,” Peggy raises an eyebrow. “We can’t stick our hands in the mashed potatoes, yeah?”
“Okay,” Sarah answers, waiting until Peggy turns around to once again attempt to grab the mashed potatoes with her hand.
Hearing giggling behind her, Peggy turns around once again. Sarah once again is trying to grab a handful of mashed potatoes. She picks up Sarah and scoots the chair farther over and away from the mashed potatoes. "There. Now, can you do a special job for Mummy?"
Sarah nods with a smile, mashed potatoes still stuck in her hair.
Peggy didn't have much for Sarah to do-- there wasn't much for an 18 month old to do that didn't require reading ingredients or handling knives. "Can you go get some of your crayons and paper so that you can make a picture for Daddy?"
The toddler runs out of the kitchen quickly, returning a few moments later and positioning herself on the floor, humming to herself while she draws.
After a few minutes, Peggy's certain that the meal was almost perfect. Everything smells incredible… except from the particularly foul smell coming from the corner of the kitchen where Sarah was coloring. Stepping closer, Peggy realized that the child had stopped humming, instead grunting with her face pinched.
"Did you go poopy, Sarah?"
Sarah doesn't answer, continuing to grunt.
"I'll take that as a yes." She pulls Sarah into her arms, feeling a particular moistness on the hem of Sarah's dress. "We've had a blowout, haven't we? Let's get you changed. We've still got five minutes until Daddy's roast is finished."
"Hey Peggy? I think something is burning."
Overwhelmed by the massive bowel movement and the necessary changing Sarah required, Peggy had nearly forgotten about the meal.
"Shit," she scoops Sarah into her arms, rushing into the kitchen, "take it out, take it out!"
In a matter of moments, the kitchen is filled with smoke, the roast a sad shade of blackish brown.
"Maybe the inside is good?" Steve adds, good naturedly.
His knife struggles to cut through the roast after Peggy serves the potatoes and drinks. Once he finally cuts through it, the piece falls, revealing a charred inside.
Peggy sighs, "I'm so sorry I ruined your birthday dinner. I must be an awful wife."
"I didn't marry you for your cooking ability, Pegs. I married you because I love you" He takes a large bite of his mashed potatoes, "I take it back, these are pretty good."
Peggy manages a smile, taking her first bite, "Now I know you really do love me, because these are horrible."
"Yucky." Sarah spits.
"Pizza instead?" Peggy suggests sheepishly.
"Sounds good." Steve shrugs.
"Has it been a happy birthday, darling?" She asks.
"One of the best, because you two are here."