When dinner becomes more than a family meal
CHERYL LAVIN April 15, 2013 1:16PM
Updated: July 19, 2013 3:26PM
When wives and mothers-in-law clash, it’s not uncommon for the most serious battles to take place in the kitchen.
The weapon of choice? Tupperware.
Anna and Bill were both quite young when they married. Bill, an only son, had been living with his “lonely, divorced mom.”
“When we married, Bill said I was the best cook in the world. What he didn’t mention was that compared to his mom, anybody was an improvement. We had dinner at her place once a week or so. The food was always awful. The vegetables were cooked to mush, and the main dish was swimming in grease. To make matters worse, I could see she wasn’t even using proper sanitation or refrigeration.”
Anna tried to eat as little as she politely could, just moving the food around. But that wasn’t the end of the dinner. Anna’s mother-in-law cooked enough for a small army and insisted on sending the honeymooners home with leftovers.
“I wanted to throw it out, but Bill insisted we not waste ‘free food.’ ”
Anna would have her mother-in-law over once a week. You’d think that would be a chance to show off her delicious cooking, but it didn’t work out that way. Her mother-in-law would arrive with platters of cooked food.
“She insisted we reheat it and eat it, rather than eating what I had prepared. Then she left the voluminous leftovers in my kitchen. Bill always thanked her profusely for her generosity and insisted we reheat it again for days.
“So there I am, an excellent cook, and I’m seldom allowed to eat my own food in my own home.”
Anna wanted to make sure she wasn’t just biased against her mother-in-law’s cooking.
So one night, she invited her starving artist friend over to partake.
“He was thrilled to accept an invitation to a free dinner, but as soon as he tasted her cooking, he got a look of shock on his face, stood up and said goodbye. Even he wouldn’t eat it!
“My mother-in-law was struggling financially, and it was obvious to me that the only reason she insisted on feeding two extra people was control. She didn’t want her precious baby boy eating my food.”
The last straw for Anna was when Bill and his mother decided to “help” her by “cleaning” her small home. She came home one day to find that a lot of her things were missing. Bill told her that they had put all the stuff she wasn’t using in his mother’s basement.
“The two of them had ripped off everything from my French books to handmade items from my own grandmother. When I moved from another state to be with Bill, I brought many cherished mementos of my family and friends with me. I think the two of them just didn’t want me to have my memories of my past life.”
Anna says her self-esteem was too low for her to leave for her own sake, but when she thought of any children she might have being taken over by her mother-in-law, she got the strength to go.
“I left for the sake of the children that I didn’t even have.”
After the divorce, Bill moved back with his mother, but she died soon after of a heart attack.
“I wasn’t surprised. Every meal she cooked was a heart attack on a plate.”
Are your in-laws trying to break up your relationship? Send your tale to cheryllavin firstname.lastname@example.org.