So last night I was standing in the kitchen, and I had a sort of introspective moment. Ordinarily, those moments are not so great because they involve me making a realization about myself, like that I’m essentially lazy, or self-centered, or that quite possibly that last time I lost my temper with Jabber was the time that will mess him up irrevocably.
But this realization was about cooking.
I always say that I can’t cook. It’s true, I don’t cook. I don't usually tell people that when David is going to be gone from the home during a mealtime, he sometimes leaves a meal ready for me to heat up. That sometimes means always. That he also gives me detailed instructions about the heating.
(To be fair, David likes giving detailed instructions. He’s very helpful like that.)
It’s also true that cooking meat is difficult for me. For one thing, I won’t eat or let the kids eat ground meat (ground beef primarily, but I really can’t eat too much of any kind of ground meat), so there goes the primary source of meat from my childhood. Hamburger in everything, you know? But I just can’t eat it, not thinking about how it’s all ground up and who knows what is in it. I cooked a pound of ground beef once, it must be ten years ago now, and I looked at it, cooking in the pan, and just knew I wasn’t going to eat that ever again. I dumped it out in the garbage, and I don’t think I’ve eaten it since, at least, not on purpose. I won’t get into the e.coli chapter in Fast Food Nation that made me vow to keep the kids away from it until they are older and more…I don’t know, durable.
But still, when we lived in Oregon, I often cooked. I had a vegetarian cookbook, and I made soups, side dishes, full meals. I often substituted ingredients because we were poor and only had a few staples in our kitchen most of the time, but I cooked a lot.
Then we had Jabber, and I went back to work, and there it began. I didn’t get home from work until 5:30, and before I could even get my coat off, the baby would be reaching for me hungrily, with his little baby bird mouth opened wide. We’d settle into our perch on the couch, and there we would stay…both of us exhausted and hungry and a bit cranky.
So David had to cook.
And essentially that’s the reason he continues to cook: I work late, and the kids are hungry much sooner.
But last night I realized what my real problem is. It’s not that I’m a bad cook; it’s that I’m a bad meal planner. I look at the cupboards, and I truly can’t figure out what to make out of it all. I can sometimes think of one part of the meal, but then I’m at a loss as to what to do for the rest of it, or how any of it would go together.
Like a couple nights ago, when I went grocery shopping, the store bakery had these enormous loaves of garlic bread on sale, so I bought a loaf and set it on the counter. While David was asking me what I we should have for dinner, all I could think was, “Well, we should eat the garlic bread because it was probably not fresh to begin with, so…garlic bread. Goes with spaghetti. But we only have alfredo sauce made. And Jabber won’t eat that. Because it’s cheese. And he’ll only eat orange cheese, that’s not melted. Unless it’s on pizza, when white cheese, melted is okay. And Monkey won’t eat noodles at all. What kind of a kid won’t eat noodles, for crying out loud. Why the hell do my kids have to eat the complete opposite, anyway?”
And at this point, I think I wandered out of the kitchen. It was just too much for me.
David, on the other hand, turned on the oven and stuck the garlic bread in, a plan forming around in the back of his mind. He threw some chicken into a pan, melted some cheese, steamed some broccoli, tossed some chickpeas, and made us grilled chicken sandwiches on garlic toast with two side dishes.
I’m not completely helpless, though. I mean, sooner or later I would have poured us each a bowl of cereal.