The Joy of Not Cooking

img_3195The scorched and tattered shape of my cookbook tells it all and the rocky road through the many kitchens of my life verifies my deficiencies. Cooking is an innate talent. Either you’ve got it or you don’t. And I don’t.

I began as most girls of my era, thinking that cooking and other housewifely activities were the basic principles of being a worthy woman. My mom was my first role model. She toiled away each day putting out solid meals for her husband and six kids. Twelve year old me was impressed by her stamina but decided early not to follow her lead.

Throughout my adult life I’d become accustomed to the head shaking looks of sympathy when I’d show up at pot lucks with something from a deli or a bakery. I veered a bit when I mastered deviled eggs. But I was quick to squelch anyone’s hopes of expansion or improved prowess; I joked that this was the only thing I knew how to make. And I intended to keep it that way.

I had two husbands who thought they’d gotten a traditional wife with spatula at the ready; I really disappointed them. When I left, I didn’t take any pots and pans or spices. I only took my clothes, in one case, my dog and my books (no cookbooks, by the way).

I’m finally comfortable with my non-cooking ways and am okay dealing with the judgements of Martha Stewart wanna-be’s. Being retired and living alone, I only have me to please and I’m pretty happy with the creative ways I’m meeting my culinary needs. Perhaps some of my activities could qualify as real cooking but experts in haut cuisine may disagree. I’ll let you be the judge.

I haunt only certain sections of the grocery store and envelopes and boxes are the mainstay of my list. The frozen pancakes microwaved, three on a plate for 1:15, are one favorite. Oatmeal from an individual envelope is microwaved just two minutes with 2/3 cup of water.

Brats that are pre-cooked go freezer, to microwave to bun in just ninety seconds, complete with my nicely applied mustard and onion slices. Oh, but those onion slices; that means I have to visit the spooky aisles of the fresh food section. A challenge indeed.

But there are items to be picked from the fresh food section too. Plastic containers of cut cantaloupe, watermelon and strawberries and pre-made salad make my day. The deli’s complete dinners, meat, potatoes and vegetable, with one plastic encased chocolate éclair for dessert round out my list. Last stop is yogurt in single served containers. Unpacking and putting away these prizes at home gives me such a feeling of satisfaction. And I do recycle.

Perhaps my chili could be considered real cooking but I doubt it since the base ingredients also come from an envelope. I’m pretty sure that browning the meat and boiling the noodles isn’t enough to qualify as real cooking. Each batch yields six plastic containers that are snuggled up next to the other boxes in my freezer to be thawed as needed.

The apartment building where I live has a small convenience grocery store and a young woman each week sells fresh, one-serving items packaged neatly in plastic. She makes a seven layer salad to die for. No chopping done by me. The building’s monthly catered lunch is something I never miss for a complete meal cooked by someone else along with enjoyable social time and no clean-up afterwards.

Not sure what I’d do if it wasn’t for lunch with friends. Sometimes I have three of those in one week. Jane and I plan our trip to the museum around lunch. Poetry breakfast includes food. Pat and I never miss lunch after yoga, a just reward for our hard work. My menu selections often include thoughts of left overs for the evening.

Tomorrow I’m going to a movie then stopping for soup and a sandwich at the nearest deli or coffee shop. On the way home, I’ll visit the grocery store and stock up on next week’s boxes and envelopes. The joy of not cooking gives me peace and serenity. And dedication of my time to things that are lots more fun.

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