Ode to Mother-in-Law

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Dear Mother-in-law,

In response to your previous missives pointing out (and with what style!) my inability to feed my family, and giving way to powerful poetic impulses, I am tempted to string my thoughts together here by introducing a subtle pseudo-culinary metaphor aimed at conveying as clearly as I can my impressions of you. Psych yourself up and let your imagination run free.

It is Friday evening. Taking advantage of a lovely warm summer’s evening, you decide to go and get something to eat from the fast-food place on the corner. In fact, just like every weekend, you have just had the afternoon from Hell at work, you are starving, the fridge is empty and you can’t be bothered to go shopping and then make yourself a meal at home. So you go into the fast-food place, queue up like everybody else (in a very long queue, a Friday night queue!) and, when you get to the front, you order twice the amount you are capable of swallowing (which is really saying something). You dash home and unwrap the contents of the paper bag on the coffee table before throwing yourself hungrily on the food. When you finally feel that you have reached the limits of what you can consume, your gaze falls on the remains of the cardboard containers and the plastic glasses (which you will deal with tomorrow) and you discover to your horror that there is still one intact sandwich awaiting you, stashed away in its untouched packaging. This is the moment when you wonder, “but why did I take an extra one?!” Then you push the survivor to the end of the table and collapse onto the sofa where you will end up spending the night. The next day, you wake up at eleven o’clock and decide to skip breakfast. That’s when you remember that good old sandwich you abandoned in such a cowardly way the night before and which is taunting you from the corner of the table. You go and take a shower (in your case, you don’t always, but let’s just say you do...) then you come back a quarter of an hour later intending to do away with the bastard. You stick it in the microwave for too long, get it out of its package and then, right before your astonished eyes, appears one of the most distressing sights one could see: bread as hard as if it had been turned into stone, blackened steaks oozing fat, a worrying slice of wrinkled cheddar and a few wretched, withered salad leaves whose ends are dangling half-heartedly into space as if they had made up their minds to escape their sordid fate. The whole thing is covered in a yellowish sauce with a dubious aroma. Mother-in-law, inscribe this image well in your crazy mind, because this is what comes to mind when I think of you.

With love,

A son-in-law at the end of his tether.

Translated by Wendy Cross


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