Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Home Noncooking

I get, like, 19 magazines sent to my house every month, including Hot Rod, for car enthusiasts. Warning: when you buy a really cheap magazine subscription off of Ebay, and you are trying to order House and Garden, and the stoned or trollish or honestly-mistaken seller stops at the magazine right before House and Garden in an alphabetical list, the magazine that starts coming to your house is Hot Rod. And you cannot get it to stop. And you cannot get your House and Garden because the seller goes NARU (Not A Registered User)—that’s Ebay-speak for your money is gone so enjoy your Hot Rod.

All of this is to say, now that it’s summer, every magazine I receive (except Hot Rod) is trumpeting the delights of “No-Cook Meals” and their power to help you “beat the heat!” Turns out they mean something like these recipes in which you combine ingredients that don’t need heating. Tuna and Chickpea Salad with Pesto? Sounds delicious. Ham and Pineapple Slaw Wraps, maybe. . .but for no-cook meals they sound like kind of a lot of work. To me, “cooking” is not heating things to certain temperatures. Cooking is anytime I am standing in the kitchen (or really anywhere) thinking about what to feed someone. And then making it happen. That is cooking. Therefore, there is no such thing as a no-cook meal, because believe me, you do not just accidentally cut half a pineapple into quarter-inch strips, and then thinly slice a head of Napa cabbage. This is not the no-cooking I am looking for.

I don’t really enjoy meal planning, shopping for food, or cooking the food, but I do take some satisfaction in the sound home economics of the whole enterprise. (Also, I don’t want my people to be hungry or to eat Wendy’s every night.) So now, I cook. My friend Brenda has a blog that has been a big help. Besides showing the nuts-and-bolts of how to spend WAY less on groceries and household stuff, it appeals to the part of me that loves esoteric knowledge—the ins and outs of working the system and scoring free Charmin. (I feel like wearing a button that says, “Ask me how to get free Perrier!” Because I would love to tell you.) So the grocery store part of cooking much more fun now. And it’s resulted in our now having big stockpiles of food. When I can get a good price on something I know we’ll use, I buy a lot of it. So now I have a lot of it. And I can’t decide what to prepare on any given night.

Like today, in the afternoon, I was at the pool with the kids, packing up to come back home. We had Laura’s friend P (the Tic Tac kid) in tow. My thoughts turned to what to make for supper. (In the new world of stockpiling, I can have this thought in the afternoon. In the old days, I had to think about it in the morning and I really hated that.) I called Matt to see what he was doing, because if he wasn’t going to be home, I didn’t want to grill burgers, which is kind of what I’d been planning. I have a lot of buns and a lot of ground beef right now. He said he was probably working later. Hmmm. I drifted home thinking maybe tacos? It uses some of the beef and it involves lots of kid-friendly foods like refried beans, cheese, and tortillas. But then there’s like the chopping of the tomatoes, lettuce, and onion, and can I just lie down now? By now it was 7 o’clock and P’s mother, my Frenemy Neighbor, called and asked if it was okay if she went to the gym, and P’s daddy had “an appointment,” so could P stay here a while longer? Sure, I said.

I was still wearing my bathing suit, but now it was time to actually feed the three children, and I had a brainwave. When I make tacos, the kids don’t eat the meat anyway, so what if I had taco night without the meat or anything requiring chopping, which, who am I kidding, they won’t eat either? Newly empowered, I started making cheese quesadillas (which only involves toasting). I opened a can of refried beans (they have fiber!), microwaved it, and then microwaved one of those things of steam-in-the-bag green beans. Just so the whole plate wouldn’t be brown. I may have now horrified some of you, but it’s better you know the truth.

Suddenly someone was knocking at my garage door—the little door from the garage into the house. Nobody ever knocks at that door because the big garage door is never open. I was kind of freaked out, but it was Frenemy Neighbor holding a baggie with four barbecued chicken legs in it. She said, “Since you’re going to have to feed P, here’s something to add to the pot.” I thanked her, sent her on her way, and put the chicken in the microwave queue. I served it to the kids with the quesadillas, beans, and the other beans. They thought it was great.

I was thinking about how this meal was not a no-cook meal, but rather a sort of “noncooking” meal, in the sense that I didn’t plan it beforehand, it didn’t take a lot of work, and somebody brought part of it to my door. So, assuming I can’t count on garage chicken every night, how can I set things up or what can I plan so I never have to plan anything? But we still eat at home? That is what I want to figure out.


Amy said...

Good on ya, Beck! We are big on quesadillas here, but no way are my kids touching refried beans! :( I have been sneaking some veggies into it when ava's not looking though--she's very observant so this is no easy task.

And, I checked out Bren's blog--WOW!! Brenda, you are amazing, girl. Wish I could just follow you around the Publix.

Wayne said...

Imagine how hard it was to get home from work at 3:30- 4:00 and then to try to think of meal prep. It helped when all in the house would eat virtually anything placed in front of them ! I did discover that if I cooked a Big Meal on,say, Monday and Thursday then we could eat leftovers on Tuesday and Friday. That helped a lot. On yeah, crock pots were a great help and mushroom soup. Yum.

Becky said...

I feel you, "Wayne." (I'm guessing that was really Debbie who posted that comment.)

I do love the crock pot--I use it about once a week. Maybe I should do more.

Veronica said...

Beans on toast might be even easier than quesadillas, because all you have to do is open up a can of beans (baked, instead of refried), and butter some toast. It is a totally legitimate meal, at least in the British Isles. Patrick still loves it as much as he did when he was four, and he might even be willing to show you the time-honored tradition of making a well with walls of toast to surround the beans. I am embarrassed to say that we do eat this some nights--I blame it all on the Irishman. I like to add a salad, because raw greenery makes me feel like it's more of a legitimate meal on this side of the Atlantic.

Amy said...

People eat beans and toast here, too! Haven't tried it yet, though. I am not so efficient in this area, but I do cook a couple big meals in a week and then we eat leftovers. The kids love fish filets, so they eat those alot and I'll cut up some carrot sticks for Nate--which he mostly throws on the ground.

Becky said...

You know, the beans on toast do sound good, especially with a crunchy salad. Good comfort food.

One of my new favorite bloggers, Fiddledeedee, feeds her family pineapple sandwiches for supper. That is a big comfort item that I remember from childhood. Pineapple with mayonaise--might be an acquired taste. It's delish to me, but I'm surprised her kids will eat it.

kate said...

The fastest meal that I've figured out is spinach salad: spinach, boiled eggs, and cheese. Though I'm not feeding a kid (he might as well be one when it comes to food), David enjoys it, and it's cheap.

Can I admit that I'm scared of having to feed kids one day? I'm worried that my love for cooking will vanish. I mean, the last present I received was a mortar and pestle to ground fresh herbs for dinner. How does one who loves meal planning adjust to feeding picky children?

Veronica said...

My aunt and uncle once somehow got signed up for "Hot Rod" magazine, too, and couldn't get themselves off the list. My aunt was always super embarrassed when the magazine would come, always with a hot chick splaying herself over the top of a hot rod. That year, on April Fools Day, my uncle photoshopped a picture of my aunt's face onto the body of one of the chicks on one of the covers, and slipped it into the mailbox.

Becky said...

That is hilarious! I wonder if Hot Rod has any legitimate subscribers?