Dinner Is Served

It was leftover night at the McGaughey abode Thursday night. Becca had made a delicious chicken parmesan dinner the evening before, and I did not mind a 24-hour-later repeat in the slightest. (I’m not sure what the kids were thinking, opting for a mere grilled cheese sandwich, but to each his — and her — own.)

My wife occasionally professes that she is not a good cook, but I beg to differ. And, no, I am not just trying to kiss up. As the one who often reluctantly does a very large share of the meal-preparing work (and usually with Grace and Zach running amok all the while), she does an outstanding job. I am very fortunate and thankful to come home nearly every night to a tasty, home-cooked meal.

This wasn’t always the case for me. After all, I was once a bachelor.

Flash back to May 1989, when I graduated from the State University of New York at Binghamton. Not knowing what I wanted to do and, quite frankly, not ready to give up college life, I lived in an apartment that summer with one of my best friends while pathetically working for a few weeks at a Wendy’s and eating far too much fast-food fare. And, when I wasn’t consuming Big Classics or food from what the restaurant called the Super Bar (not sure if Wendy’s has those anymore), I subsisted a lot on Steak-umms, Hamburger Helper, the cheapest spaghetti and sauce I could find and other less than nutritious (or delicious) fare.

That fall, when classes resumed at “SUNY-B,” I moved to a different apartment with the same buddy and continued to eat mostly poorly. I got a slightly more respectable job, working as a customer service representative for a book publisher in Binghamton, but got paid next to nothing. I remember occasionally treating myself to a 99-cent breakfast at Paul’s, an ultra-greasy spoon near the bus depot that was frequented by an often-frightening clientele, and going to a place called Grotta Azzurra, where I seemingly got charged a different amount every time for two slices of meatball pizza. The rest of the time, though, I ate much of the same food as the summer, and managed to work hot dogs, full boxes of chicken rice-a-roni and Banquet chicken TV dinners into the dietary rotation. (Surprisingly, a taste for ramen noodles was never developed.)

I recall well a particularly night when a friend by the name of Brian Wilson — definitely not of the Beach Boys, nor the San Francisco Giants closer — came over to my humble little abode at 46 1/2 North St. for dinner. On the way, we stopped at the Giant supermarket for a bag of spaghetti noodles and the cheapest jar of sauce we could find. I bought, and I think he gave me around 75 cents for his share of the humble feast.

Seventy-five cent dinners are pretty hard to come by nowadays, to be sure. And, even I could get them somewhere, I’d take Becca’s cuisine any day of the week. Perhaps, though, if she doesn’t feel like cooking one night, I’ll go out and grab some Steak-umms for old time sake. I can almost guarantee she’d back at the stove in no time.