My sister and I were talking a few days ago. She said, “I’m tired of having to provide meals day in and day out.”
Yeah, me too. In normal times, we like going to restaurants. And, of course, we can still get carryout. But it’s not the same experience. I do feel guilty about not ordering from local eateries more often. But we had a couple of bad experiences with UberEats where they just decided to cancel our order and not deliver it. DoorDash has not failed us, but the problem with that delivery service is that it doesn’t use the full restaurant menu–leaving us with a much more limited selection.
Frustration with buying prepared food leaves me doing most of the cooking. My sister says she’s tired of making the same stuff over and over. I have that problem to a certain extent as well. But as a sometime cookbook author, I make an effort to be creative. Partly, that’s out of necessity because having to stock up on various ingredients leaves me with lots of “this and that” meals.
For example, we’re having an early dinner tonight because we have a Zoom meeting with a bunch of friends we haven’t seen in months. In order to be finished with the cooking chores early, I started dinner preparations in the morning using a wide variety of leftovers–beginning with a couple of hamburger patties I bought a few days ago. I decided to use them in spaghetti sauce. And because I had bought a jar of very hot chipotle peppers to use in a brown rice and black bean bake, I chopped up one of those and threw it in too. (Yes, they were much too hot to use the whole jar in one casserole.) Also on hand were two Italian sausage links I’d cooked the night before. They went into the pot, along with tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, a leftover half onion, chopped garlic, chopped mushrooms, and a little shredded cabbage. Not my usual pasta sauce, but it worked.
But no matter the unconventionality of my cooking today, I’m continually struck by how much easier it is than in previous eras.
I’m finishing up a story for the Dear Santa boxed set, called Christmas Miracle 1935, My heroine lives on a farm with a stove that looks almost normal until you get to the part where you open a door under the burners and put in pieces of wood for the fuel. And yeah, I actually cooked on a stove like that at a cabin where my Girl Scout troop went camping. There’s no fridge in the farm kitchen, only an icebox–where a man has to deliver ice to keep the contents cold. And the sink is one of those old-fashioned drainboard models like the one my grandma had.
When I’m standing in the front of the pantry, thinking about what to fix, at least I can use cans or jars of tomatoes, beans, applesauce, and jelly I buy at the store. The people in my novella must can their own produce. And they’re not buying sausage links in nice neat packages. They are grinding and seasoning the sausages themselves. Writing the story makes me think about how much things have changed and why I shouldn’t complain about my kitchen duties now.
What cooking challenges are you facing these days, and how are you meeting them?