Sunday, October 21, 2007

If I Could See Me Now

My high-school aged self sometimes watches my thirty-something self. Lately Miss High-School squints her eyes and furrows her brow. She seems familiar, Miss High-School says, but I can't quite place her.

It's not the changes in the shape of my thirty-something body (though they are substantial), or the silver streaks in my hair that befuddle Miss High-School. Nor is it the three adorable (albeit cacophonous) children that tag along with me wherever I go, or even the fact that I drive (gulp) a mini-van.

It's all the COOKING (Gasp! Hands grab face in imitation of The Scream!)--from scratch-- that I've been doing lately.

Because if there's one place in which I never envisioned spending much time, it's the kitchen.

The obstacles are two-fold. First, I never really learned how to cook. In a miniature version of a finishing school, I learned that one must accept a compliment by simply saying "thank you." I also learned one is better off washing one's face with just plain water at night if one doesn't possess a good quality moisturizing cleanser. One should never, EVER, use the plain old soap that one uses on one's Other. Body. Parts.

But cooking? It was plumb left out of my edu-ba-cation.

Second, I grew up thinking of cooking as a traditional wifely duty, a tightly-tied, corseted apron society cinched up around each woman's bodice; an evil as great as high-heels or the invention of pantyhoes. Thus, I never wanted to cook.

A few things changed my perspective on cooking.

First: I'd like to thank the Academy, (sniff sniff) and specifically Al Gore, for alerting me to the state of emergency in the Earth's environment. Because of your dedication to the survival of the human race, I started investing in Community Supported Agriculture (sniff).

As anyone who receives CSA veg each week will tell you, once you have the veg, you must figure out something to do with it. Traditionally, this will involve some sort of cooking.

Second: I examined the booty from my weekly shopping trip to Trader Joe's one day, thinking about how many food miles the contents had traveled. Subsequently, I wrote this post, calculating (while wearing my coziest Fuzzy Math Sweater) the number of miles contained in my shopping bags. Heather left a very nice comment, which said this (except she actual said it in a very kind, easy-to-receive way):

Hey there, Dysfunctional Environmental Wanna Be! Rather than trying to find local reproductions of the nasty, unhealthy, highly-processed blech you've been buying, why don't you fish out the ol' User Manual, figure out how to operate your OWN STOVE, and try your hand at some actual COOKING? Maybe start by using INGREDIENTS THAT YOU CAN PRONOUNCE that have been produced in your area?

I read the comment. Then, like Homer Simpson learning from Child Protective Services' Parenting Class that garbage goes in the garbage can, I scratch my head dumbly, and said aloud, "Hmm, makes sense..."

Then I put my other, non-food-related training to work. As part of my Plan for World Domination (oh wait, that's not my plan, just my President's), I attended a Leadership Training a few years ago. Among other things, I learned this simple concept:


Thus, I set about remodeling the structure in my home in order to accommodate, support, and cherish (okay, maybe just accommodate) the amazing Creator of Meals that I would become.

To Do:

Overhaul the Kitchen (goal: reduce clutter, make things easy to find)

Specifically, Clean Out Spices I received as wedding gift in 1993 (and have rarely used since)

Find recipe books that include recipes for things grown in season

Duct TapeFigure out what to do with children during Cooking Hours

Check, check, and check.

Having procured my cookbooks, I set about making a menu and buying the appropriate ingredients (I know! Garbage goes in the garbage can!)

And guess what? I made amazing, delicious, made-from-scratch meals!

(So what if I had to look up the definition of scald in Betty Crocker's "helps" section).

I made three kinds of bread!

(So what if I used 6 oranges in order to get 1/3 cup of fresh juice, because the juicer lid got stuck the first time and I spilled all of the juice into the sink when I tried to remove the lid).

I made soup from a WHOLE chicken, which was locally grown, free-range, organic-grass-fed, and purchased from the local Farmer's Market. The chicken said, "bock bock bock bock," which translates roughly as, "Thank you for respecting me enough to use all of me and not just my breasts."

(So what if I took off the lid of the pot to check on the simmering bird and screamed when its FEET and CLAWS, having come uncurled, POPPED up over the soup pot, and refused to go back in? So what if I eventually yelled for Tobin and begged him to remedy the situation in any manner possible so that I could just put the lid back on the pot. So what if he had to lop off the chicken's feet with garden nippers, since the chicken was already half-cooked in the pot? Having attached the beater to the hand-held drill last Easter in order to stir up the separated peanut butter, we are quite familiar with unusual Cooking Solutions).

Victoriously putting the lid back on the pot, I saw Miss High-School out of the corner of my eye. She smiled and laughed as she finally recognized me.

It must be my properly moisturized skin.


Kendra Joy said...

HAHAHA!!!! You make me laugh. I couldn't help but chuckle at the part where the chicken claws wouldn't go back in the pot and you had to call in the reinforcements (read: husband). Now I _really_ want to come visit to try out your delicious meals made from locally grown ingredients! Or maybe I'm hoping that while I'm there you will have another entertaining chicken-claw-esk episode in the kitchen and I will get to witness it first hand. :)

alicia said...

I literally laughed outloud for more than a minute! At least you're still as funny as you were in high school. The thought of you cooking from scratch is a bit unbelievable, yet completing inspiring. It's amazing to me how you've so quickly and radically changed your lifestyle in order to provide a more healthy environment for your family. I'm still several steps behind you (eating Funyuns as I write this), but I'm following...

slouching mom said...

This is hysterical. Brilliantly funny.

You are my new comedy idol.

I shall now worship at the altar of your humor.

painted maypole said...

the chicken story is killing me. And I am glad to know I am not the only person with spices in her closet that she received as wedding gifts (I got married 3 years after you, but I still do not think that makes it any better)

Julie Pippert said...

LOL and awesome!

KUDOS for your effort, initiative and great post detailing it all. :)

I love the YUM photo with food plopping into mouth. :)

Using My Words

bgirl said...

being the fortunate recipient of your new found skill i can attest to the delicous nature of your cooking! whatever you put in my cranberry bread was contagious, because i too cleaned out my kitchen and have found myself baking cookies, bread and soups...sheesh! who cares if there are a few eggshells from my 4-year old master egg-cracker!

PS - the whold chicken thing would've put me over the edge, hence my blissful state of vegetarianism!

Little Monkies said...

1) You have no wrinkles so the moisturizer thing is working for you, keep it up.

2) You are a *farm* girl...what is up with the I'm scared of the chicken thing? (Ok, I haven't ever had a chicken with feet on it except for dim sum, but I thought I'd just give you sh*t because we are both red dirt girls)

3) Cook if you can, sister. If you have any time saving tips please pass them on (I am grilling 3 weeks worth of le chick every go at it and chopping it and freezing it for quick it).

4) I (heart) my CSA...but it's the most expensive compost ever. Not good for the busy, unimaginative folks.

I'm with Alicia on the Funyuns...

jen said...

you go, girl. i love it and i am inspired. and laughing, of course, i am laughing.

Seattle Mamacita said...

like b-girl i've also been a recent recipent of your culinary delights, a delicious curried vegetable soup sooo incredibly good. I'd love to hear more about the recipes that were hits at your home, share them with the rookie cook down the street. Fall is the perfect season to get back to cooking like this.

Jenn said...

How odd.

I've been cooking a lot of late, as well.

When I went to my mom's the last time, I was putting together a recipe from scratch and looking for ingredients, to which she kept laughing.

I asked her why I felt like I had entered some sub-universe where our worlds have flipped. She told me it was just that now that she didn't have five kids in the house, she didn't have five pounds of flour, either.

Kudo's on the cooking. Maybe we can swap recipes!

Anonymous said...

So funny. The chicken feet had me laughing till my Very Expensive Mocha came out my nose. Thank you for that.

We tried a CSA-equivalent That Shall Remain Nameless a few years ago, so I know all about getting veg nobody will eat, and trying to sneak them onto the table in various forms. I am still the only one who likes kale. (It's really good chopped up and sauteed in olive oil with a few pine nuts & some chopped shallots... or in an omelette.) I discovered that, in addition to providing me with far too much food my family would not eat (dang), said CSA-equivalent was also getting its veg from way too far away. In the interest of family harmony and our budget, we stopped using them.

I love your blog & this post. Recipes? Esp. for the bread. You go, girl.

momomax said...

funny!! You and me used to be in the same camp when it comes to cooking. I wave to you from same said 'fraid-of-cooking camp. brava.

I am glad that you are crazy enough to cook chickens with their feet on so that I can get a good belly laugh out of it.

Lori said...

The chicken totally got me! You are so funny!!

There is something satisfying, and messy, and time consuming, and delicious about cooking from scratch. Okay... you have inspired me. I will try harder!

Angela said...

Very funny ; )
I always refused to learn how to cook as well...for exactly the same reasons (well, and since you've read my blog, you are attuned to my formative experiences with stoves and soup). I love love love to cook now. It is such a nurturing, creative thing to do. It makes me feel wonderful, and this was a great post!

Worker Mommy said...

HaHaHA...yes cooking is good.(what I'm doing now...bad) Damn I need to do more of it.
Thanks for thumping me on the head ever so gently w/your entertaining post!

WhyMommy said...

Awesome post! It's so nice to hear about the process of becoming environmentally responsible -- and healthy to boot!

I'm not much of a cooker myself. Okay, not at all of a cooker from scratch. (I think we learned the same lessons about wifely duties in high school. But I can't think where I learned them.) You make good points, though. I should learn from you!

(1st lesson: chickens have feet. Ewwww.)

Emily said...

We, too, get fruit and veggie boxes each week here in London. I did not know if they were becoming more available at home, and I am glad to hear they are. But, yes, it does lead to quite a need for kitchen creativity. Parsnips. All they seem to grow in England are parsnips...

Emily R said...

Something is waiting for you over at my place

FENICLE said...

OH MAN! I am so enjoying reading all your posts, but this one is particularly hilarious!!! The chicken's feet & hands coming out of the crockpot was a great mental pic for me :)

I applaud your determination to eat fresh, local foods too!

Summer said...

I have an idea to solve the chicken feet trauma...let it live and eat beans!! Speaking of beans, does cooking from scratch mean I always have to use dry beans or can I use canned sometimes??? This is a question I've been debating, especially with garbanzo's. They're a pain!

I love you and miss you and appreciate this blog.

I'm thinking of your beloved sis...