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It is 6:30 a.m. and I am in full production mode — cooking. As Gill well knows, my desire to cook left the building years ago. We kept things simple when we lived together — neither one of us could be arsed. Why, even now, I’ve been having leftovers for dinner four days straight. It’s just easier and I don’t care.

Since Crazy D and L’il Sis came to live with me, I seem to spend the better part of my days in the kitchen — making crunchy granola and chicken soup. The granola is partly (the small part) for me and mostly for Crazy D. The chicken soup is again partly for some of the humans of the house but mostly for The Pig (the beagle). Our dinner meal consists most often of roasted chicken in order to provide the carcass for the next day’s soup for The Pig. I am running a food factory out of my kitchen. I am manager, chef, chief buyer and dish washer. Oh, and taster…unless The Pig beats me to it.

The granola production goes back over 40 years. It began when we lived in Berkeley, commonly known as the land of nuts and flakes. It only seemed sensible and a natural extension that the nuts and flakes should end up in a bowl. Almost every day since that time, my breakfast has consisted of that same granola with, as Gill says, a shitload of fruit on top. She taunts me for eating it every day but I suspect that’s jealousy speaking. She loves it but her Crohn’s doesn’t. I doubt she’d make it to the bathroom before its ‘move it along’ qualities would indeed be moving her colon along. Not in a good way.

Crazy D, however, loves my granola so much he takes it with him around the world when he travels for work. He may be stuck in a typhoon in Manilla, a snowdrift in Northern Canada, a gorilla preserve in Africa, but the one constant is my homemade granola. Isn’t that touching? A tiny bit of Mom goes everywhere with him. (If we’re being honest, it’s a piece right out of my tired hide that goes.) Actually, it’s all a secret plot on my part to prove to him how invaluable I am to his survival. In fact, many’s the time he’ll return home from a job in the middle of nowhere, exclaiming, “Mom, your granola was a lifeline. It saved me from starving to death!” This may be because food services on the job feeds him the all greasy, all brown, all preservative-laden diet or it may be because there isn’t a store within a hundred mies, but I don’t care. I have established my creeds as ‘Lifesaver-in-Chief’…and hence he’ll feel obliged to consider that when I’m old and feeble and I want The Home with late-afternoon cocktails and good wine with dinner.

I know the recipe for granola so well I could make it in my sleep…actually, at 6:30 a.m., it IS in my sleep. Each batch changes slightly — it isn’t a precise science, which is the way I prefer to cook. It kills me to bake cakes or any such delicacy since my ‘titch of this and pinch of that’ approach doesn’t lend itself to fine patisseries. Crazy D has tried to duplicate my granola himself but claims it’s just not the same when he makes it. I secretly believe it’s the old, crusty, ‘seasoned’ pan I’ve been using for all those years. I hide it at the back of the cupboard so the health nuts in my family don’t find it. They’d be horrified if they saw what I was using…but nobody has died yet and they ask for my granola constantly. And no, I’m not lacing it with anything addictive. Honest…

Likewise, I have soup production down to an assembly-line precision. The bones go into the pot first thing in the morning and spend the morning boiling. At this time of year, condensation runs down the windows and everything in the house smells foul from fowl. The broth is stored to cool in the large plastic buckets I have secreted away from the eyes of my grown children. (These are the ones they ‘organized’ out of my kitchen and refused to let me use.) When the broth has chilled and the fat floats to the top, I skim. (Wouldn’t it be nice if OUR fat did that and we could skim it off with a spoon?)

When time is short and The Pig needs her two bowls of soup immediately (you didn’t realize beagles were prone to such food emergencies, did you?), I take shortcuts. I ladle some broth into the bowls, shake seasoning on top, grate a few bits of carrot, add chunks of chicken meat, nuke it and call it a day. To be honest, she doesn’t know the difference. I think. Although I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the man from the Progresso ad showed up at my door to perform a taste test — having been summoned by her. She wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if she did contact him. How many other dogs can claim they get two bowls of homemade soup every day?

Gill will be home soon and I will be glad for her minimal food requirements. She too will eat chicken soup but other than that, it’s a diet of Cheerios, Saltines, rice, rice cakes and meat. I realize Christmas eating is often her downfall but I’ll keep a close eye this. She will be forbidden to eat salads, extra servings of pie, and large helpings of cheese. I will simply lock those things away with my personal stash of chocolate and forbidden plastic buckets.