Sunday, January 4, 2009

In the Kitchen with Elissa

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.


Shana said...

It is so funny that you posted this this weekend, because when I was cooking Friday night (making gumbo) I was thinking about how I love to take ingredients and watch them come together into a beautiful, tasty meal. Tonight, since I am able to stand for the first time in over 24 hours, I am making dinner again. This time it is chicken fricasse and I have been relishing in watching my previously seperate ingredients coming together as one.

At least we know that if we ever get stuck on a desert island together that I will be able to cook our meals. You can be in charge of starting the fire and putting up our shelter. ;-P

CDP said...

I so often wish that my two children would have the same food crotchets, rather than dealing with two different sets of food crotchets. And the planning and deciding are the two hardest aspects of feeding a family. If someone gave me a detailed meal plan with shopping list every week, the rest would be totally easy for me.

liss n kids said...

haha, Shana, I am a damn fine firestarter!

I think what I hate about cooking, cleaning, laundry, grading papers, etc. is that it's such a never-ending cycle. You get it done, and the final product is good for a moment (unless it's cleaning, which since having children I don't think I've ever actually *had* the final product--a clean home)and then it's gone. Whereas if I spend that time writing or reading or painting or whatever, the end result is something that lasts.

liss n kids said...

cdp, yes! But I'm afraid that if someone tried to plan our meals for even one week, his/her head would explode.

Monkey's first long sentence was, "Icky, I don't like that," followed by, "All done, I no eat it." *headdesk*

amy said...

lol, I don't hate you! You just confirm my evolving theory that nearly all food distastes are based in psychology, not physical response. It seems that most of the time, when people say they don't like something, it's the *concept* that grosses them out, not whatever is happening on their taste buds.

Ugh, and no wonder you don't feel like cooking if you're trying to cater to two picky little kids!

See, this is why I can't have kids. I'd just be like, "alfredo it is, guess you kids are gonna starve." bad mommy.

liss n kids said...

lol, amy! we do mainly make the kids eat most of what we eat, but then we kind of just have these staples (cheese/meat/crackers, broccoli with hummus, chickpeas, black beans, noodles for Jabber, sometimes jelly toast) that we fill the rest of their plate with so that they do get some nutrition. They really won't eat it if they "don't like it," but then they'll pester me for cereal or whatever all night. We are finding that Monkey eats better when we just let him nibble off his plate for a couple of hours or so.

I have some foods I can't eat because of what I'm *thinking* about, like meat, and then I have some foods that I don't like the texture, and then some that I really don't like the taste, like iceberg lettuce, for instance. It tastes like...watery dirt. Why do I want to eat that? (I will eat other greens, though...)