I think it’s safe to say that I’ve officially become the laziest person I know when it comes to cooking anymore. Well, maybe it’s a tie between me and my long-time friend, Carole. She always tells me that she never cooks a thing anymore, and can barely stand to heat something up in the microwave these days. Okay, she might be a little worse than me since my microwave and I are still on speaking terms...and once in a while my oven and I get reacquainted. But I swear, if things continue as they are….I’ll be the first person to use Map Quest to find my way to the kitchen. Shameful.
I've never been in love with cooking. I’ve wanted to be; and always wished I had more of a natural talent and interest in it. I LOVE FOOD. I certainly appreciate a good meal; sadly, only too well. And…I appreciate and admire anyone who cooks those beautiful meals in the blink of an eye with barely a mussed hair on their heads. Somehow that was NEVER me.
My introduction into the world of cooking was thrust upon me when I got married….low those many moons ago. I wasn’t entering married life with a lot of culinary experience back in 1968. When I said ‘I do,’ I was hoping they weren't talking about cooking. My mother was a pretty fair cook I thought for someone who basically prepared meals for a ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of man like my dad....and a rather finicky eater like moi. We had a lot of steak, pork chops, roasts and Italian pasta dishes from what I can remember. Mom wasn't a gourmet cook, and didn’t experiment very much outside of her little box. She also didn’t sit me down and share what cooking knowledge she did have...I don’t think it ever crossed her mind. Although I was into baking at that time, I was too busy with other things to even ask, and was happy to leave it that way. Besides, my mom wasn't the most patient person in the world when it came to explaining things to people. Where do you suppose I learned about the 'birds and bees?' Not from mom's lips. I rest my case.....but that's another post.....
So when time came, I imagined I was going to ‘wing it’ for my hubby and I…and hope I didn’t kill us in the process. Joel was a good sport and never gave me flack over any naivete I may have had in the kitchen. Maybe because I actually made some decent meals back then…and he wasn’t hard to please. He even liked helping out in the kitchen. Well, you know when you’re first married…everything is new and wonderful and life is looked at through ‘rose-colored’ glasses. When you're young, you bank a lot on love. Besides, I think I was actually more into cooking and figuring out meals when it was just the two of us way back then.
It wasn’t long, however, when the two of us became the three of us…then the five of us…and finally the six of us. There were times when I thought Joel and I hardly got to know each other as husband and wife before little feet were running all over the place. It was what it was…and I loved being a mom; even if there were days when I didn’t know up from down.
Needless to say, this was the busiest and most productive time I’ve ever spent in the kitchen. Whether I liked it or not….meals had to be made, and made well. With a husband and four kids depending on me….there was no room for fooling around. Being a pretty organized person most of my life surely helped keep me sane and on track. I probably learned more about cooking during those years when my kids were young…and growing, than any other time in my life. I tried things that I never tried before…and probably haven’t tried since. I made myself step ‘out of my little box,’ and it felt good. I was always delighted when everyone liked what I made…even a little surprised.
I wonder if my kids remember those times as fondly as I do. When they got older and everyone had schedules to keep and places to be, we ordered out or picked food up often. And though my kids loved when we did that, it probably was the start of MY downfall into the cooking death abyss.
It only got worse when one by one my kids went off to college and I was left with just Joel and I to cook for. We were back to the two of us again; but where was the exuberance I once felt as that young bride? I guess I lost some of that verve and vigor over those past twenty-five years. And worse yet; after all those years of raising kids and working out of our home for ten years with our advertising agency; I hesitantly took a job outside the house again...at the urging, almost pleading, of at least a couple of my 'now adult' children. It seems they were concerned that my brain would turn into mush...and that I needed some healthy outside stimulation on a daily basis now that they all were gone. Huh, too late! Poor Joel. When I think of how good he was about the diminishing homemade meals and not ever complaining, it almost brings tears to my eyes. ALMOST!
Let’s face it; when you go back to work at 47 years old after years of having the comfort, leeway and control of determining how your days will be spent, preparing a nice homemade dinner every night is hardly at the top of your priority list. Joel knew me very well….well enough to know that it was NOT something to hassle me about. The two of us were pretty tired by the time we both got home from work. Besides, he was thrilled I was working at a good job…and enjoying it. But….I was falling deeper into the no-cooking abyss….
Now here I am; four and a half years after Joel’s death….and my kitchen and I are like strangers. Grand Central Station has turned into a bit of a ghost town. Not even Joel to visit there anymore and make one of his many concoctions….and inevitable messes.
Passing through I put the tea kettle on and run a load of dishes. I fill up the paper towel container, take the garbage out, and wipe off the sink. Before starting back upstairs to where I really live….my computer room, I grab my cup of tea, a yogurt, and some cheese; and gently pat the door handle of my oven.