Tuesday's cook is full of woe

CorrespondentSeptember 24, 2006 

Songbooks have been filled with tunes bemoaning Mondays. The reason is obvious, with the day's unfortunate position as a weekend-killer.

But the day I really have a problem with is Tuesday.

At least Monday has an identity. We look forward to Wednesday as "hump day." Thursday and Friday begin the slippery slide to the weekend. But Tuesday just sits there, taking up space but impossible to ignore.

My issues with Tuesday go back more than two decades. On my first job at The Salisbury Post near Charlotte, I worked in that newspaper relic, the Women's Section. There were two of us in the department: the Women's Editor and me. Both of us worked Saturdays, preparing the vitally important Sunday weddings. She received Sunday and Monday off, which left me with a strange split-shift weekend of Sunday and Tuesday for about a year.

For a single woman in her late 20s, Tuesday was a useless day to have off. Just try to find someone who wants to go out on a Monday night, other than to watch Monday Night Football. It wasn't a good day to watch soaps, because even in Pine Valley, nothing happens on Tuesdays. Most of the time, I devoted the day to chores and napping.

The best thing about the day was that supermarkets were nearly deserted, making for quick trips. As for food, Tuesday has a reputation.

I learned the rhythm of the weekday lunchtime world during a summer job at a pizza place in Winston-Salem between my sophomore and junior years of college. My guide was a hard-smoking waitress in her 30s with kids and a beat-up early-'70s Cougar. She was the only waitress -- no one called us servers then and all were women -- for whom this was a real job. She worked to put food in the refrigerator, not to decorate college apartments.

She also didn't mind working lunch shifts -- she preferred them so that she could be home when her kids got out of school. Most of the waitresses hated lunch, because the restaurant ran a buffet and tips were poor.

I guess diners felt that because they were fetching their own food, they weren't being served, so they didn't have to tip. But I can tell you, that lunch buffet was as much work as waiting tables on a Friday night after a high school football game.

We had to constantly wipe up glops of salad dressing from the counters, restock empty pizza pans (walking around diners hovering in search of fresh prey), bus tables and answer endless questions about what kind of pizza was coming out next. By the time we closed down the buffet at 2 p.m., the floor looked as if a busload of kindergartners had invaded and waged a food fight, using the bar as a fort.

At the start of my first lunch shift, my mentor expounded on the fine points of cheating the IRS ("You're declaring all your tips? Stupid.") and how to time the arrival of fresh pizzas on the buffet so that the hordes would finish what was there rather than waiting on new ones.

Then, she explained how every week went. You might see a few people on Monday, because some people have that day off. But, she said, practically no one goes out to lunch on Tuesday. Traffic picks up on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday are swamped, she said, because people get paid and see the weekend coming, so they want to have a little fun.

She wasn't like the college kids flirting and goofing off around her, but she had a Ph.D. in restaurant observation, because she was absolutely right. I worked only a handful of lunch shifts, but every one followed the same pattern.

On Tuesdays, the place was so slow that we plucked slices from the buffet while she grilled me about whom I was dating and offered relationship advice. She had been divorced at least once, as I recall.

Today, Tuesday poses cooking logistics problems at my house. On Sunday, I can spend time cooking, trying out new recipes or roasting chicken. That means leftovers for Monday. On Wednesday, there's time to prepare and eat dinner, with lovely leftovers for Thursday. On Friday, there's that weekend vibe that makes for a happy kitchen and a one-handed cook (refreshing beverage in the other hand).

But that darn Tuesday. It's just annoying. The Sunday leftovers are gone. It's often a busy work day. I meet a friend to exercise at 5 p.m. and my husband has a class to get to, so there's no dawdling. I feel as if I'm hammering dinner together from spare parts. The easy lure of takeout calls, and I have succumbed.

The two best ways I've found to defeat Tuesday at home are soups in the freezer and my slow cooker. Hot soup on a 95-degree day doesn't make me like Tuesday any better, so I save that option primarily for cooler weather. But it's easy to double a batch of vegetable, onion or mushroom soup on a cooking day and fill the freezer.

The slow cooker is this Tuesday-hater's best friend. It's so simple -- throw the stuff in the pot and plug it in -- that using it feels like cheating rather than cooking. But on Tuesday, a cook must do whatever it takes.

Freelance writer and cookbook author Debbie Moose is a former food editor for The News & Observer. Reach her at moosedj2001@yahoo.com.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service