So about this vacation thing. When we used to go to the pool in the summer, people would talk about going on vacation. There we were, poolside in bucolic suburbia, sitting on lounge chairs in the sun, sipping diet Coke, gossiping, watching our kids swim and dive and fight and romp, and people were talking about going on vacation. And I would ask “Why are you going on vacation? Vacation from what?”
OK, I was being a bit of a bitch, but really, life around here is pretty good. If I ask myself if I need a vacation, the answer is most certainly no. But I have to say that I am totally looking forward to not cooking, not even once, for an entire 2 months.
Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking. In fact, I love it so much it has become an obsession. And perhaps a vacation from my obsession is a really good idea.
I started cooking in college, but more often than not, it was a disaster. We fought over whether spaghetti sauce should have chunks. We set our oven on fire. We made something that could best be described as Horseradish Surprise.
Fact: If you put everything from your refrigerator into a pot, then add horseradish, the entire pot will taste like horseradish.
Related fact: No matter how much ginger ale you add to your Listerine, it will still taste like Listerine. (Going back a ways on this one. You don’t need ID to buy Listerine, and it’s like 95 proof. No brainer, right?)
Related related fact: Never, ever vomit Listerine. Trust me, just don’t.
Anyway… I started cooking in earnest when the kids got old enough to eat real food, but we didn’t have the money nor patience to feed them real food in restaurants. OK, that’s not entirely true. We had the money, or at least Dana thought we did. But I just can’t stand watching a kid order a $20 meal, or even a $10 meal, and then refuse to eat it because it “looks yucky.” Dana was raised to spend money, I was raised to save money. And since I basically control food around here, I started cooking for the family, thus saving us a lot of money.
Since we had raised the kids to be good eaters, I was able to experiment. You like chili? Let’s make chili. You like stir fry? Let’s make a stir fry. Granted the kids disagreed on everything. Bill liked spicy, Katie liked sweet. Billy liked Mexican, Katie liked Asian. But we figured it out, and in hindsight, both kids think I was a good cook.
Or at least that’s what they tell me. Who knows what they really think. Perhaps I will know the truth when they are no longer dependent on me for money. And for the record, my stepkids also think I’m a good cook, which is truly amazing. When they were little, they cried if I even spoke to them while they ate, and Dana ended up cooking for them: macaroni & cheese, rotini with frozen meatballs and cold Ragu, or chicken nuggets with rice pilaf and peas. Now they look forward to my cooking, and Tim recently said that he’ll eat anything I cook. Now that’s music to an evil stepmother’s ears!
Meanwhile, it doesn’t hurt that we live a few miles from working farms. Growing up in Brooklyn, I never understood the concept of fruit being “in season”. Fruit came from the A&P, just like chicken and Bird’s Eye frozen vegetables and Froot Loops. Although I was never allowed to buy Froot Loops, which fell squarely into the “too expensive and crap” category of cool stuff. Here in Westford, however, I’ve been able to treat the family to fresh picked fruits and vegetables in season, which was awesome (for me). And sometimes we even bought Froot Loops, which was also awesome (for them).
Then, somewhere along the way, things got out of control. I have actually said “Let’s not go out for dinner, I can make something better at home.” Which sounds like something my father would have said, and that scares the crap out of me. And while I’ve always been a foodie, it’s only recently that I’ve actually started dreaming about food. One night I dreamt of ham sandwiches. Then it was butter. Then meatballs. Then collard greens. Really? Collard greens?
Then I took this cooking thing to the next level. I grew my own herbs and tomatoes, and I canned jams and pickles. I know the difference between a crisp and a buckle and a cobbler, and between a turnip and a rutabaga. I taught a class at the community center called “Winter Vegetable Casseroles”. I’m a freakin’ modern-day episode of Green Acres.
[Note: If you are not familiar with Green Acres, you can probably catch an episode or two on MeTV, or TVLand, or any other cable station dedicated to baby boom nostalgia. And along with Green Acres and Gilligan’s Island and Bonanza, you can watch some very informative commercials for I’VEFALLENANDICAN’TGETUP buttons.]
But this summer I am not planting a garden, and, for 2 months, I will not cook. (I probably will, alas, still dream about food. I love food.) Meanwhile, I will eat junk food, and fast food, and whatever we find at the Quickie-Mart. I may even be forced to skip a few meals, and I will have no control over, nor responsibility for, everything on anyone’s dinner plate. I’m wondering how I’ll feel about cooking after we get back.