Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Lost's" Desire Has Gone Up in Smoke

Wednesday Greetings!
I suppose it's my turn to send you a coNUNdrum.   Here goes:

Dear Readers,

When Sam and I entered wedded bliss almost 24 years ago, I had one meal in my cooking repertoire: non-gourmet lasagna, cucumber salad, and "cheesecake" poured into a ready-made graham cracker piecrust—covered by a layer of strawberry Jell-o.

Amazingly enough, Sam didn't feel ripped off, but I was smart enough to know that might not always be the case.—ergo, I dove into cooking, and baking with gusto. It didn't matter that we lived in a quaint and kimchee-filled  Korean village. Sam had gone out of his way and budget to buy me a narrow stove and oven—NOT typical where we lived. He's always been altruistic that way.

I biked to the library on Camp Red Cloud, checked out a stack of cookbooks and was on my way to gastronomical achievement.

My mother-in-law (Mom), who is an EXCELLENT chef, continued my education once we returned to the states. Then we moved to a country house, where I was able to put all this learning into practice—dinner parties ensued.

Fast forward to last year. Maddie and Katalina and Spencer (off-spring), all had reached or were closing in on their 20s and were doing their own thing. I began a full-out love-affair that had been brewing on the back-burner for years—writing. Short stories, devotionals, novels, not to mention Facebook (hangs head sheepishly)—and now a blog. With all that time at my laptop, there hasn't been much time at the stovetop. Not that I'm conflicted. I don't WANT to spend time in the kitchen. I fix healthful meals—90-second brown rice, microwaveable fresh vegetables, grilled meat, but Sam is accurate when he says: Honey, no one opens up dinner like you.

Not that he's complained—much. His eyes do light up when, on the rare occasion, he observes me dust off the stove's glass top. (Sometimes I find a sad face fingered into the dust before I wipe it down.)  Sam has become a huge fan of "Hell's Kitchen." I don't know how to read that. And what about the droolish appearance he gets when Recently-Married-Maddie describes what she's been making from the "Cooking Light" magazines I pass to her—even though the subscription was a gift to me from "Mom."  Hey, I wonder if Sam put "Mom" up to that. I wonder , too, if "Mom" is reading this.

Food is foundational—nourishment, communion, comfort, so here are my questions related to this coNUNdrum:

1. Do I need to force myself back into the kitchen?
2. Is it okay to take a break? If so, how long?
3. Any advice (offbeat or otherwise), for getting back into cooking enjoyment?
4. Any other solutions?—ones that I can afford. All that writing hasn't made me much money—yet.

If you have an answer too long for the "comments" section, you can email it to me. I'd like to post some answers on Friday.

I appreciate any insight/help you send my way!
Lost that Cooking Feeling


  1. My suggestion would be to cook once a week, on the weekend. A pot of chili, a whole chicken, a huge batch of mashed potatoes for staters; then eat off it all week. Of course Friday night is pizza night, so there's one dinner covered.

    Also, a nice fritatta is never wrong, and it cooks in about 5 minutes.

    Even people who love to cook (me) like to take a break. I adore leftovers, esp when paired up with something fresh, like salad.

    So, get back in the kitchen, is what I'm saying. And take your husband with you. He can learn how to cook too, or at least can wash the pots and pans while you whip up something utterly fabulous!

  2. If hubby ain't happy, ain't nobody happy :) Cook for the man and then he'll just laze on the couch and not bother you when you write.

  3. Hmmm, if I spent as much time cooking as I did drooling over recipes, I'd be a gourmet cook for sure. I like tiff's suggestions. My suggestion would be to trade off with your altruistic husband--for each gourmet dinner prepared by you, a gourmet dinner at a restaurant of your choice. Want me to send you some of those recipes?

  4. I'm certainly no person to give cooking advice. My kids learned how to stop, drop, and roll from the house filling up with smoke. It's called, 'teachable moments.' They would crawl out the the door, under the smoke, mind you, to get fresh air before it was time to eat the charred culinary delight:) (While Dad took the battery out of the smoke alarm.)

    No, I'm not Julia Childs, but through the years, I have learned to set the computer aside for a second, and throw in the oven frozen chicken breasts. When it's about done, I squirt some bar-b-que sauce on it, put potatoes in microwave, heat up a can of veggies (sometimes no veggies, I will admit) and voila! (and all that depends on if/when I remember I have something in the oven.) Helpful hint to the absent-minded: tell someone else in the house when something should be about done - just in case:)or you could always use the timer. That was a true discovery I made one day - who knew the stove had a timer? LOL

    So you see...I'm absolutely no help to you. I do enjoy going through online recipes and I marvel at the succulent pictures and wonder how they do it:)

    Maybe an intervention of some kind? I'm sure your loving family could arrange that. Cooking feelings are clearly overrated in this age of simple but if cooking feelings are what you want - then I pray God loads the feelings on you (along with the ability.)

  5. So I'm sensing a theme here. That is: The Husband Continues to get the Short End Of The Stick.

    to wit...
    "Tiff" sez - "he can learn to cook, too"

    Carol is just a low-down dirty, scheming dog who wants me placated and out of the way.

    Verna is a proxy-wife spending husbandly monies.

    Laury is honest, but apparently very dangerous.

    This just underscores my theory that all of you girls are part of a giant scheme to drive men nuts. It's working.

  6. Social networking is every man's nightmare, huh, Dear Lisa Hubby? We can plot each move together as we work our evil schemes! (insert sinister laugh here)

  7. Hmmm what say ye, Mari?

    Let me think as my husband just boasted of his yummy creation called: Blended-Slimfast-huckleberry-smoothie, and I ponder the Lean Cuisine choices in the freezer. (let me remind you this was AFTER having blizzards, fries, and onion rings at DQ after a stressful dr appt yesterday.comfort food. Goes straight to the heart in more ways than one.)

    As we have attempted the life of empty nesters, frequently invaded by adult children (and grandkids) residing for short periods of time in the "guest rooms", cooking has become less of an interest for either of us. We prefer a "special" home cooked meal maybe twice a week, a meal out once in awhile, and fin-for-yourself the rest of the time. On occasion (fairly frequently actually) hubby will offer to cook. That menu usually consists of something sacrificed on the BBQ or a cholesterol induced brunch type meal...for dinner. (so is that called brinner?)

    I believe a compromise is in the making here. I like Verna's solution, and thank God Laury's husband is the Fire Chief where she lives. Tiff's answer reminds me of our dear Beth who cooks masses amount of food and freezes it and then has instant home made TV dinners at her fingertips. (Tilman has his own Marie Chandler sporting an apron once a month.)

    A good compromise could look like this: "I'll cook Monday, you eat on that for a day or so and then you cook on Thursday. Take me out for awesome Italian food on Friday, order pizza delivery on Saturday, and stay for the church potluck on Sunday. (cuz we know all good Christian churches have potlucks regularly. Ours is the 8th btw)If it isn't potluck week for your church, then the default meal for Sunday automatically becomes soup and salad. There's some great gourmet soups on the market now and those bag salad kits are pretty handy, too.

    And because the middle aged middle can be a pesky problem, I suggest you fill in the blanks with our above mentioned preferences... Slimfast and Lean Cuisine.

    respectfully submitted,
    Mari ♥

    P.S. Sam...I know the labor of a writer causes pain and tension in our shoulders, back, neck...etc. If you throw in a massage for her, you might get lucky. (I was thinking 2 cooked meals out of her that week, btw)

  8. as a bride, I devoured cookbooks too. :) ...and like Verna, I still drool over recipes!

    [I had to interrupt my reading here to turn the oven on... yes we're having a frozen dinner (turkey pot pie)... with a Bisquick topping crust...]

    Mari beat me to my suggestion. :) There are some wonderful cookbooks (and online sites) with ideas for freezer meals. Why cook everyday, when you can cook once and eat for three or four days (just not consecutive days). :)

    I do "occasionally" cook other meals, as the spirit moves. :) But I always have my list on the side of the fridge for those days when slaving over a hot stove is not an option or a desire. :)

    Wishing you and Sam a resolution to this coNUNdrum!

    ...and me, I may invest in a new stock [the company that makes Ziploc freezer bags] :)

  9. There is a restuarant chain called "Happy Chef" and there is a stove/oven called "Magic Chef"... we had friends that in the evening the husband would lovingly ask the wife.. "Honey, is it Happy Chef or Magic Chef tonight?" :)

  10. Why are you concerned with going back into the kitchen now? I'm not sure I read what sparked the condundrum. Perhaps your condundrum is like an onion. A wise Japaneese used car salesman once quipped, "Maybe trawoo condumdrum hides in core of onion?" Do you enjoy cooking with onions? Do they still make you teary? Are your knives still sharp? Did your trip to Europe give birth to this condundrum and force it to the front burner? Italy will cause one to think about cooking. Italian food is my favorite. It reminds me of an old Italian proverb: "Savory seasonings stimulate the appetite." Maybe cooking would be the best thing for your writing.

    - Poor Topeka Onion Farmer

  11. *sigh* My question is, "When does the cook get to retire?" When you do the same thing, day-in-and-day-out, for eons of years, who can blame one for wanting to change the pace of their life and seek other sparks of interest?

    Being responsible for the planning, shopping and cooking to please others every single day, anywhere from 1-3 times a day, becomes frankly ... well ... boring, and becomes just a job to get through as quickly as possible. (most of the time)

    And does it stop there? Mom/Wife is the unspoken-spontaneous-problem-solver-need-fullfiller -- available 24/7.

    What does one get to look forward to when they reach that magical/relaxing time of retirement?

    Don't ask a SAHM or a SAHM who works to help financially -- she'll never know.

    So why begrudge her something that sparks her soul, frees her spirit, revitalizes her sanity but changes the pace for those she's been there for through thick and thin?

    Ok, so now to the coNUNdrum of our favorite 'connecting' person...

    I'm basically doing what tiff said. Or rather -- that is how things have developed with kids gone and the habit of cooking more has stayed. Hence using creativity in the form of left-over food as well as words.

    Then from there it was a matter of time I began to plan ahead so quick meals could be just that.

    But regardless of what I serve, I add a special touch of some kind. With my husband, it's his meal on a tray, so he can sit in his comfy chair, relax and watch Cheyenne.

    And then I go write -- or play! : )

  12. You all are good! Update coming on Friday.

  13. My family (these days mostly mom, because of my sister's and my health issues) cooks a large amount of yummy food a couple times a week and then freeze the rest in individual servings. Then the rest of the week we can just grab whatever we want out of the freezer and throw it in the microwave and have a nice homecooked meal with no work.

  14. Crook Pots are a wonderful invention. You put all the yummy ingredients in and let it do the work all day. It provides that tantalizing aroma when family comes through the door, that says, "I have been thinking of you". Best of culinary wishes to you and the husband of your youth.

  15. Oooh - I have another idea! Hire a personal chef! YES! Just have them come on over and prepare your meals. Make sure it's a dude. A young dude. A young handsome dude. Yes, this is a better and better idea. Who needs frozen foods when you could hire Mr Studly McStudlerson to come cook for you? Meals in the freezer and eye candy to boot?

    Win win, I say.

  16. Lisa, it's a hoot reading your blog! And I SO identify with your Lost that Cooking Feeling!! I just finished a new post on my blog entitled 'To Eat or NOT to Eat' and then went to read your blog and !SURPRISE! it's about EATING or rather that step before called COOKING.

    My suggestion is (as much as lies within you)-- schedule 'writing days'. On these days plan to have leftovers, pizza, or hamburgers, etc. Then balance the week out with 'cleaning and cooking days' and take the time to cook heartier meals. Let us know how it goes!