“How would you like your hamburger tonight, Dear?”
As a young bride, then mom,
that’s what I asked my long-ago husband, the father of my children, nearly every night.
With a slim budget and a belief that we couldn’t get enough protein, iron and B vitamins without meat, hamburger was my almost-nightly mainstay. And I hated it.
Back then, I disliked cooking almost as much. Spinach, slimy and disgusting, came in cans. So did green beans and corn. Meat, nearly as disgusting, stunk and made me want to retch, and it wasn’t just during pregnancy. I still react to raw meat with an urk reflex.
What can I say? My main cookbook was Better Homes & Gardens, and it gave me lots of recipes using canned, boxed and highly processed foods. Incidentally, that link is to a much revised, newer version. Mine was published in the Sixties.
Salads came in three main shapes: Tossed, with pale iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and onion, or occasionally with apples and oranges instead of the savory vegetables; Cole slaw, made with shredded green cabbage, one chopped orange, one chopped apple, some raisins and half an onion, minced, or sometimes a grated carrot and celery instead of fruit; or a Waldorf style salad, with mayo for every-day and whipped cream on holidays.
Well, of course, there was potato salad in the summer, maybe a watermelon salad with seasonal berries and more melons for family picnics.
Baking eased the drudgery
Even then, I made bread. My own, sure. More often, Rhodes Frozen 100 percent Whole Wheat Loaves. Back then, their loaves didn’t have so many objectionable ingredients (high fructose corn syrup, canola oil, just to name two).
Lucky for us, we lived just miles from the Seventh Day Adventists’ Challenge Bakery. The Seventh Day, as we referred to them, known for their healthy lifestyle, made the Rhodes stone ground whole wheat frozen dough loaves, which they sold to the local supermarkets in 3-packs and 5-packs.
All I had to do was throw a frozen loaf into a greased bread pan, let it thaw and rise, and bake it for 35 minutes. Home-baked sandwich bread! We ate a lot of bread in those days.
If cooking is a chore …
Cooking, though, was a chore I did not enjoy. My best friend, childless and happily so, offered to take my children under her wing and give them cooking lessons. They each got one. Just one. “I really don’t like children,” she said, apologetically.
Of course, I invited the children to cook with me. Showed them how to measure both liquid and dry ingredients. Taught them the difference between folding and stirring, and how to use a knife safely.
But they sensed my boredom with the routines of hamburger, tuna, and canned vegetables and usually didn’t stick around too long.
Expand your food palette, add color, crunch and scent
I was nearly fifty before I discovered I liked cooking, and that I probably would have liked it all along if I’d just expanded my food palette a bit. We lived in a town with a thriving co-op and lots of fresh, organic produce, much of it local. Plus I had a little time on my hands to permit creativity and experimentation.
After years of relying on the same old recipes–I knew them so well, I never had to look at a single one–I had time to try new ones. Gruyère cheese puffs! Potato soup made with real cream, not 2 percent milk, and leeks instead of onions. Baked beans from dried beans I cooked myself and side pork, not the canned beans and thin bacon I had always used.
Salads made with crinkly escarole, tender baby spinach leaves and hot-sweet red onion from a local truck farmer. Stir-fry with baby bok choy and colorful bell peppers.
The colors of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables delighted my work-weary eyes. Cutting into their farm-fresh skins released minuscule scent-filled droplets of moisture that made my olfactory and salivary glands dance for joy. Take this mango. Messy as it is, the scents and colors filled me with gladness as I cored, peeled and diced it for a quick mango-kale salad that took only ten minutes to make.
Even the sound of the knife cutting into the crisp flesh of a bright orange pepper or a crunch-on-the-outside-tender-on-the-inside cucumber satisfied some need in me for fresh food, not far from the garden.
I’d grown up on such foods. Well, not the mangoes, baby spinach and the colorful peppers, but plenty of vine-ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, and green beans, along with bib lettuces, crunchy radishes, sweet green onions that tasted of the earth, and tree-ripened apples, pears and peaches.
Though for years I’d bemoaned tasteless, mushy supermarket tomatoes, squishy cucumbers and juice-less apples, I hadn’t realized just how much I’d missed real food, grown for taste and texture, not for ship-ability and shelf longevity.
Look for the freshest, locally grown fruits and vegetables you can find
So if food and cooking have become a bit of a yawn for you, consider finding a fresh produce source a little closer to home. Go to the farmer’s markets and find one or two that specialize in heirloom produce. If you’re lucky enough to have a co-op in your area, become a member and encourage the group to order more locally-grown food from small farmers who pride themselves on the freshness and taste of their fruits and vegetables.
Experiment. Try new recipes, or add something unexpected to an old one, as I did to our simple quesadillas when I spread a little whole grain mustard on a warm tortilla shell before adding homemade hummus and grated cheddar. What a difference! Suddenly our long-time lunch-time standby became a treat all in itself.
I bet you’ve got a couple of those tricks up your sleeve. Care to share?
♥ ♥ ♥
Note: I’m currently participating in a Blogging 101 class. One of our assignments is to write an article based on a “writing prompt.” My prompt was ( YAWN ), and from it came this post.