From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

To Err Is Human

It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.

Warren Buffett

Menopause was giving me grief, but I was managing okay, or so I thought.

One October evening, the main dish I was going to prepare for dinner was lentils with chunky bits of ham simmered to perfection. Lentils were one of my hubby Ed’s favorite childhood foods. I was excited about surprising him with the dish.

Stews, roasts, and soups always came out perfect when they were cooked in my stainless steel oven. I retrieved the old Dutch oven, the one my grandma had made so many of her famous homemade meals in during my own childhood. Once my perfectly square bites of ham were placed in the old pot, I filled the antique with the precise amount of water and spices. I then went to the cupboard for the lentils that I had neatly stored in a Ziploc bag. This was actually our second meal of the delicious beans; however, it had been so long ago since I’d prepared them, I’d nearly forgotten how to cook them. I opened the unmarked Ziploc and gently poured the beans into the mixture.

Before long, I began to smell the aroma of the ham. It smelled good. Even the dog seemed enchanted by the wonderful fragrance.

My teenage son soon came through the front door. “Mom, what are you cooking for dinner?” he asked in a displeased tone.

“I’m fixing lentils,” I said, with an upbeat attitude. “Ed’s grandmother used to make them.”

“They stink,” he said, wrinkling his nose in disgust as he left the room.

Removing the lid from my old pot, I inhaled deeply. Instantly, my stomach turned. What the heck? I asked myself. They smelled okay a minute ago.

I remembered that the last time I had fixed Ed’s childhood favorite, they had tasted pretty good. I shrugged my shoulders, replaced the lid, and waited to hear my husband’s car pulled into the driveway.

I didn’t have to wait long. Ed walked through the door and quickly found the pot. He lifted the lid. “What are you making?”

“Lentils! Can’t you tell?”

“Oh,” he said returning the pot’s cover. “The beans were on the bottom. I couldn’t see them,” he said, never asking about the stench that hung in the air.

An hour later, my son came out of his bedroom and sat next to Ed and me on the couch. By then, the stink in the house was overwhelming “I don’t want to eat anything that smells like that,” he said.

“They’re good.” I assured him. “Ed loves them. His grandma used to write his initials in ketchup on them when he was a little boy.”

“They smell like burnt peanuts! I’m outta here!”

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to get something to eat. I can’t eat that stuff.”

Quickly, I ran to the kitchen to see if the lentils were burning. Stirring the pot, I noticed that although my supper wasn’t burnt, the beans were still as hard as they were when I began cooking them. I returned the lid and joined my husband on the sofa. My stomach was beginning to growl with hunger.

“Are they done yet?” Ed asked. “They’ve been cooking for over two hours.”

“Soon,” I answered, wondering if my prediction would be true. Allowing another thirty minutes to pass, I asked my husband to check on dinner.

“I’m not sure, honey. They’re still kind of hard,” he said after careful examination. Knowing full well the tiny beans should be nothing but mush at this point, I asked him to taste them.

“Barb,” I heard him say, “these aren’t lentils.”

“They are too.”

“No they aren’t!”

“Well, what are they then?” I demanded as I walked into the kitchen.

“I have no idea, but they aren’t lentils.”

“Let me see,” I said, grabbing the spoon from my husband. I lifted the rock-like beans from the bottom of the pot. He was right. Whatever it was that had been stinking the house to high heaven was not lentils.

I opened the cupboard. I was positive I’d only cooked half of the little round beans the last time I’d fixed them. They couldn’t have spoiled; beans last for a long time, I reassured myself. Ziplocs are airtight. I moved the items around in the cupboard. Suddenly, I spotted the flavored croutons that I had used in the delicious salad I’d made a week or so earlier, and then the empty spot next to them. In an instant, I knew where I’d failed. I hung my head and turned to Ed.

“I know what they are,” I said in a meek voice. “We’d better go out for supper.”

“What are they?”

“Sunflower seeds!” I answered, shaking my head in disbelief that I had managed such an idiotic mistake.

Ed laughed. “How in the world?”

“Menopause,” I said as I grabbed my coat. Without muttering another word, my smart, wonderful husband followed me out the door.

Adding insult to injury, later that evening upon retiring to our bedroom, Ed rubbed his stomach. “I’ve got heartburn,” he said, not sounding too well.

Great, I thought. Probably from digesting those sunflower seeds. Again, being the sweet wife that I am, I offered to get him some Maalox tablets. I tossed the bottle to him.

“Do I take one or two?”

“Two,” I answered.

Doing as he was told, Ed opened the bottle and popped the tablets into his mouth. As he chewed, a terrible look came over his face. “Are you sure you’re supposed to chew these things?”

“Of course I’m sure; they’re antacids.”

“They don’t taste very good,” he murmured between bites, the look on his face getting worse.

“Let me see the bottle,” I said, taking it from him. I started to laugh.

Ed sat up instantly. “What? What’s so funny?”

I couldn’t stop laughing. I had tossed him my bottle of Women’s One-A-Day vitamins!

Barbara Wenger

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