“There’s Something Going On In The Kitchen”

I have a confession to make. Remember the post, Funny Farm Girl? Well, Kelly Fosso Rodenberg and I have been meeting regularly from our kitchen’s over coffee (virtually of course). Full disclosure…we’ve decided to take our relationship to the next level and have officially declared ourselves, Brain Tumor Besties (BTB).

As a quick refresher Kelly is a farm girl, I am a city girl–and despite our topographical differences–we have a lot in common. A Lot! For example, in addition to graduating high school the same year, both of our neurosurgeons described our brain tumors as being the “size of a golf ball.”  Kelly’s tumor was located mainly in her right frontal lobe and mine was located largely in my left frontal lobe so put us together and you get a brain with two functioning frontal lobes.  

Each of us has become an advocate for brain tumor/cancer awareness. We both enjoy helping others and encouraging people to laugh. Hey, what’s funnier than two middle-aged women (referring to themselves as girls) battling brain cancer and finding humor in their journey, am I right? Not that there’s anything funny about brain cancer. We just both choose to live our lives as positively as possible and try to bring joy to others whenever we can.

Most importantly though, we share an aversion to the kitchen. The photo below is of a dish towel Kelly sent to me following our interview a couple of months ago. It reads; I only have a kitchen because it came with the house. I love it!

We are not afraid to poke fun at ourselves as we navigate through this thing called life. In fact, as BTBs we continued comparing notes and discovered we may have some pretty great material for future collaborations. Hence the title of this blog post “There’s Something Going On In The Kitchen” was born. What better way to follow Kelly’s memoir, There’s Something Going On Upstairs right? So in the spirit of this post, I decided to interview Kelly about some of her kitchen experiences:

Wendy: Hay Kelly. Welcome back, my BTB! Let’s talk about the “K” word,  “Kitchen.”  As I shared with you, I only learned to cook AFTER my craniotomy. With zero cooking experience, I often became overwhelmed in the kitchen even prior to brain surgery. I had finally made peace with the fact that my role at family functions was to serve as the dishwasher and my contributions for potlucks were always going to be anything the host wanted me to bring as long as it could be store-bought. After having my skull cracked open and my brain cut into, it was even worse. A friend finally introduced me to a meal kit delivery service and it changed my life. This became a good solution for me since I can no longer tolerate grocery shopping (due to the lights, sounds, and so forth) and the best part is I learned the basics of cooking from using the service. Don’t get me wrong, I had to take several breaks in the beginning as I worked through even the simplest of the recipes. It was quite a workout for my healing brain. Now, a few years later, I’m still utilizing the service a couple of times a week but I’ve graduated to using multiple pots/pans and not needing breaks.

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So my beautiful BTB, I know you have more than a few great kitchen stories, which one is your favorite?

Kelly: First of all, you have me in stitches! My tumor left me with zero use of my left hand. I type one-handed, dress one-handed, and on very rare occasions attempt to boil water one-handed. I, too, have been known to seek out the dishpan and Dawn dish soap at family functions. I remember my late Grandma Nelson commenting from a very young age “Kelly, you always have your hands in the dishpan.” Well, Grams, there’s a reason for that … Fast forward to hosting parties (which we did a ton of pre-brain tumor). At hosted get-togethers, my contributions were/are a clean space, beverages, paperware, and utensils. Anytime I pushed to see what I could contribute, I’d get the pitying response of “Oh, Kelly, why don’t you just bring a vegetable tray.” 

So as far as my favorite kitchen story? That’s a tough one, but I do have a story that in all honesty happened by mistake. It was a beautiful Tuesday afternoon.  The sun was shining and there was a cool breeze in the air.  My ex-husband had been at work all day. I was home doing domestic duties. I opened the oven door and sensed it could use another cleaning. I sprayed the oven down with Easy-Off, placed my ‘reminder’ towel on the counter, and proceeded with my cleaning day. The towel was a reminder for me to wipe the oven down prior to making his favorite baked sole fillets that evening. Well, he arrived home a bit earlier than expected, saw the out-of-place towel on the counter, and unbeknownst to me, put it away. I proceeded to bake his sole (or should I say soul) for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Well, I’ll spare you all the details, but let’s just say that was the beginning of Diarrhea Awareness Week which ran until Friday.  Come to think of it, that could possibly explain why he’s now my “ex.”

Wendy:  Oh no!!! The only story I have that even comes close to that is the time I tried to use Italian salad dressing to cook chicken and it came out more like chicken jerky.

Kelly: Hee, hee, hee… Good to know, I think I’ve seen that recipe!

Wendy: Really?  I wasn’t actually following a recipe, for some reason I thought I could use the salad dressing to cook the chicken.  It probably stems from the fact that I spent my formative years with a mom who didn’t cook and this was decades ago–before cooking shows were really a thing (or maybe they were and I just wasn’t aware of it).

Anyhoo, you spoke about OCD-a-thons in your kitchen. That was when I realized I’m OCD too – another thing we have in common, yay for us!

Can you please explain to our audience what an OCD-a-thon is?

Kelly: Oh, my gosh! So many quirks, so little time! As you know, I grew up on a farm and if you saw my brothers’ shop space now, you would understand. Nuts, bolts, and washers are sorted by size. Tools are hung on a wall in ascending order, etc. There’s even a sign that reads “If you take it out, you put it away.” OCD is a trait that clearly runs in my family. My OCD has definitely excelled with age.

For instance, I was wiping down countertops multiple times a day with disinfectant well before wiping down countertops multiple times a day with disinfectant became the trendy thing to do. This was long before COVID. My counters and cooking spaces were being doused in cleaning solutions over and over and over again. Now keep in mind my (current) husband and I are two very clean Empty Nesters, to begin with… And rarely is the cooktop even ignited, but by gosh, it’s clean! I also have this thing of keeping a Pinterest-worthy pantry: labels aligned, boxes and jars in descending order, most items removed from packaging and placed in white plastic tubs and covered OXO containers. Now that I look at it, I’m a freak!

Wendy: Oh Kelly, you are not a freak!  I am in complete OCD awe of you.  I seriously would love, love, love to have your pantry–it sounds absolutely delightful!  Speaking of labels, I don’t know how I existed my entire life (until about five years ago) when I finally discovered label makers.  Talk about a complete game changer!  There are a few other nifty things that I have discovered recently like: an egg cooker thingy, a small tool that can be used to perfectly slice hard-boiled eggs, and the device used to core and slice apples.  Who knew?  

On another random note, let’s talk crockpots and slow cookers. It actually took me a minute to realize that a crockpot and a slow cooker are the same thing.  Oey!  Let’s just blame that one on the brain tumor.

So I was wondering, what size slow cooker do you have and how often do you use it?  

Kelly: You say tomato, I say tomahto. In Minnesota, we have hot dishes. So, do Califorian’s prepare casseroles? Maybe our regional differences are showing.  

Wendy: Wait!  What? As far as I know, Californians prepare casseroles and then display the casseroles in casserole dishes.  Are you saying those are called hot dishes in Minnesota? I’m so confused!

Brain tumor issue

Kelly: Hmmm, maybe an easier answer is what size slow cooker don’t we have? Let’s see, there’s the small cheese dipping one used on Superbowl Sunday, the standard 4-quart one just because, the 6 & 8-quart ovals I’m sure we thought we’d use at some point, and my personal favorite, the 3.5-quart lasagna pan type slow cooker. That one definitely gets used the most for an overnight weekend egg bake we’ll occasionally make. There’s something to be said for getting up and not even having to think in the morning!

Wendy: Really, Kelly?  Now that’s just TMI. 

Okay, moving on…As I shared with you when we last spoke, I don’t even know where we keep most of our kitchen utensils. My husband often has to remind me where to find what I’m looking for.  Did you say you keep your cooking tools in a shed?

Kelly: Okay, so now I just snorted. That’s a total figure of speech! I have all the stuff: measuring cups, spoons, electric knife, hand mixer, whisps, ladles, spatulas, pots, pans, multiple sizes of cookie sheets (which make great puzzle piece sorters by the way!), tongs, regular spoon, slotted spoon, a meat thermometer, you name it. None of them, however, make an abundance of appearances. It’s not that I can’t cook, I just don’t. Lucky for me, my husband is a really low-maintenance guy. Guess he has to be, right?! With so many pressures in today’s world, so what if we aren’t Domestic Goddesses? Our husbands can’t expect us to be good at absolutely everything, can they? 

Wendy: Well, well, well… look who’s showing off. Oh, and by the way, I totally didn’t have to look up what a “ladle” is. Okay, maybe I did…so what?

At least we both have a sense of humor.  Sense of humor must not be located in the frontal lobe(s).  Who knows…maybe our sense of humor increased after our brain surgeries.  Or, worse…maybe we’re not as funny as we think we are.  I guess we’ll find out after this post is published.

Last question, Can you please share some of the kitchen hindrances you’ve experienced since your brain tumor?

Kelly: With only one working hand, my excuse now is that I’ve become a medical hazard in the kitchen. I mean seriously, try opening a bouillon cube with one hand. Double zip ziplocks can have me seeing stars when I try to open them and even my straight-laced Neuro-Oncologist snickered when I told him Bob was able to keep me both busy and quiet for a solid 45 minutes the day he asked me to simply remove a twist tie from a fresh loaf of bread.

Wendy: Oh Kelly, that is hilarious! Not the fact that you only have use of one hand but the part where you said your Neuro-Oncologist “snickered” the day you told him Bob was able to keep you “both busy and quiet for a solid 45 minutes” the day he asked you to “simply remove a twist tie from a fresh loaf of bread.” That was quite a visual description.

Kelly: In the months since my surgery – say nothing of before – I’m convinced that the best thing I can make in the kitchen are reservations. I do my best by watching all the latest cooking shows only to microwave my frozen Michelina’s meal at the end of the day.

Wendy: Well heck Kelly, we’re both doing the best we can and our best is good enough (that’s a mantra I recently learned).  I just love you! Keep On Keeping On — farm girl! You rock!

For additional laughs (and insightful information about dealing with brain cancer) check out Kelly’s book:

P.S. the following meme is a true story:


Disclaimer: most of the memes and images used in this post were found on the Internet. Wherever possible the appropriate credit was applied to the meme creators. The cover image is by: thisolemom.com

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