Who’s cooking at home more these days? I know I am.
An article in the New York Times got my attention today: “Dining In: Homemade Chili Gains Ground on Chili’s.”
Apparently the news is that people are starting to eat at home more, fixing their own meals, avoiding restaurants because of cost or a desire for healthier eating.
I know my own cooking habits changed radically last year when I did the Whole30.
You know: a month when you eat only meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and that extraspecial food group, Larabar. No alcohol, dairy, legumes, soy, grains, or sugar.
You know: that clean eating plan where you go 30 days without bread, muffins, coffee cake, graham crackers, saltines, any of the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish family, sugar, soybeans, crème de menthe, fried things, legumes, corn, sodas, smoothies, ice cream, cream cheese, Cheez Its, Big Gulps, gulps of any kind, milk, tortilla chips, quinoa, chocolate, butter?
The first time I did it, in the summer of 2015, I felt like I had embarked on a ridiculous and impossible journey. I dreamed, literally, of brioche. The first seven days were an out-of-body experience where I ran a crammed-full dishwasher every single day.
So many pots and pans! I was so clueless about how to cook that I didn’t really cook in an organized way. I was making entire menus every night, and after a week or so, I had so much food in the refrigerator that I couldn’t begin to eat it all.
This Was a Profound Lesson: Leftovers
I realize that it must sound odd that I could feed and raise two human boys and not get a groove going on my cooking. But looking back (the boys are 20 and 17 now), I was running a short-order kitchen. Pancakes, grilled cheese, anything in the form of a patty, nugget, finger, or tot was number one at Café Shayne. Hubbo and I would eat normal food, kind of.
But I wasn’t aiming very well, and there was always an air of barely controlled chaos about the food thing. I didn’t believe in it. It seemed like a lot of trouble, when there were kind-hearted and generous people willing to fix dinner for us, in these wonderful places called restaurants. Wasn’t it my duty to do boost the economy by not cooking?
I shudder now to think about exactly how much economy-boosting we did.
Another Profound Lesson
In most cases, it’s easier, faster, and cheaper to cook at home than to eat out.
Once you start cooking regularly, there is almost always something in the fridge that you made, and if you made it, you’re likely to want to eat the leftovers because it was a food you picked out to make.
What Are These Dead Plants Doing in the Diet Coke Bin?
Last night, I’d been working a long time at the computer, and my plan was to pick up supper at Kalamata’s, or as I used to call it: the cafeteria. It’s the restaurant other than Krystal closest to our house, and it’s supertasty. But I realized, as I thought about getting in my car, driving over there, forking out money, and ending up with a (supertasty) supper that took me a half hour to hunt and gather, that I had stuff in the fridge and freezer that I could fix in less time than that.
And I looked forward to a break in the kitchen after staring at pixels all day long.
I know all you fine cooks out there are shaking your heads and muttering “bless her heart.” But I guess I’m saying all this because a couple of years ago, if you’d told me I’d have a vegetable bin with something other than Diet Cokes stored in it, I’d have said, “You’re nuts! Who wastes perfectly good beverage storage space on food that rots after a week?” I can’t really believe that I cook at home.
I finished my second Whole30 a few weeks ago, I think. I can’t really remember when it ended, actually, because the end of eating clean sort of blended in with what came after. I added a little bread back in, because I’m not an idiot. And wine, for pete’s sake. But my tastes have changed, and I have Whole30 to thank for that.
How’s your cooking game? I do know empty nest moms who have gleefully abandoned cooking. I can imagine that happening to me, the liberation of it all. But there’s something equally liberating about being able to find something to eat in your own kitchen. Once I discovered that my oven was not simply a space heater, wow! Who knew?