A typical day in Charlie and Melinda Alcorn's household: Melinda sleeps in while Charlie gets up early and goes out to breakfast because, to him, "Breakfast is not a great thrill to cook." Before he returns home, he'll stop at the grocery store to shop for that night's dinner. If his wife wants to know what he's cooking, all she has to do is peek at his hand-written menu, usually laying on the kitchen counter. He focuses on meals that suit her needs as a diabetic.
A typical day in Charlie and Melinda Alcorn's household:
Melinda sleeps in while Charlie gets up early and goes out to breakfast because, to him, "Breakfast is not a great thrill to cook."
Before he returns home, he'll stop at the grocery store to shop for that night's dinner. His shopping ritual is so predictable, his wife says, that when she goes to the store the clerks ask if he's sick.
Often, by the time Melinda gets out of bed, her husband has returned and has a latte waiting for her.
Charlie doesn't eat lunch. But by early afternoon, he starts preparing dinner. If his wife wants to know what he's cooking, all she has to do is peek at his hand-written menu, usually laying on the kitchen counter.
On this particular day, the menu, punctuated with French terms, features baked apples, gumbo, rolls and butter, vegetables, and iced tea.
"He does all the cooking. I don't cook at all," Melinda says. He even does the cooking when she's required to bring a dish to a potluck.
"I'm spoiled, you can tell."
When the couple married 33 years ago, they created a blended family of five - his, hers, and theirs. Charlie, then a school psychologist, got off work earlier than Melinda, a school social worker. "She didn't have time to cook, and I did," he says.
Besides, Melinda says, Charlie was always more willing to plan and cook meals that suited the differing, sometimes picky, tastes of each child. The kids grew up and left home, he retired 15 years before she did and it seemed just as practical for him to continue cooking duties. And as he did with the children's tastes, he began cooking to suit her needs once she learned she had diabetes two years ago.
"I've basically given up the old typical cookbooks with cream and butter and rich stuff like that," he says. "Now we're on a cholesterol-free diet."
Melinda tracks her carbohydrates and Charlie plans meals with her diabetes in mind. One of his favorite cookbooks, he says, is "1,001 Delicious Recipes for People with Diabetes." He also likes "Six Ingredients or Less Diabetic Cookbook" and "Harriet Roth's Cholesterol-Control Cookbook."
Nowadays, says Charlie, 83, there are so many cookbooks and recipes geared to diabetes control that it's just a matter of choosing the main dish you want to cook, whether it's vegetarian, seafood, chicken, beef or pork. He usually asks Melinda what type of meat she wants for dinner, then he goes to his cookbooks in search of a corresponding main dish.
And after years of retirement together, Melinda knows exactly what she's supposed to do when Charlie starts pulling out pots and pans.
She's sitting at the dining room table just two steps from the small galley-style kitchen of their north Peoria home.
"Funny, after all these years, when he cooks he doesn't want me in the kitchen," she says. "I'll sit right here and I'll say, 'Will you bring me a glass of tea?' "
Charlie has already sliced garlic, fresh okra and andouille sausage for the gumbo. He's tearing the label off a can of stewed tomatoes because, in the Alcorn household, everything that's recyclable is recycled. He has already set the table because, he says, "Melinda and I both like an attractive table."
He is not a multi-tasking kind of cook. Not only does he not allow others in the kitchen - a rule even the youngest grandchildren respect - he doesn't set foot off the kitchen floor. "That's one of the secrets to cooking - you can't just walk off and leave it."
As strict as he is about what the kitchen boundary rules are, there are two great exceptions: the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago Bears.
"I might watch the Bears game on television," he says, standing at the kitchen stove, "And at time out, I'd run in here and cook like the dickens."
Pam Adams can be reached at (309) 686-3245 or firstname.lastname@example.org.