PERMANENT K. P.

Back on the Chain Gang

Last night I calculated I have been cooking dinners for me and a husband and/or children, other family and friends for just shy of 50 years. Half a century.

I’m a good cook. I like food and since I can’t afford to order in or eat out very often, I have to make it myself. That’s why I learned to prepare Chinese cuisine. I figured if all those Chinese women can do it, I probably can too. As it turns out, while I’m not a fancy Chinese cook, I can produce credible Chinese-style dishes. I can also cook pretty good Caribbean and Italian food, thanks to Garry’s mom and a long list of Italian co-workers armed with grandma’s best recipes.

75-KitchenHPCR-3

I’ve got a “to die for” chili recipe from Grandma Kraus, adapted for current tastes and some traditional Jewish recipes gotten from family, friends and miscellaneous Israeli pals during my sojourn abroad.

So I cook well. If I make an effort, I cook very well. I just don’t want to.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a festival, company coming, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Passover or Arbor Day. I do not want to cook. As a result? I cook pretty much every day because Garry doesn’t. If I don’t cook, he won’t eat. He’s already too thin (would he care to take a few of my spare pounds? I’m willing and eager to share). Meanwhile, if I don’t come up with tempting dishes, he will fade to nothing.

So I cook. What he is going to do while I’m not kitchen-able is interesting to contemplate. My daughter-in-law has promised to make sure he doesn’t became a wraith. That would be good.

What is it about cooking I don’t like? Mostly, having to do it. It’s late. I’m tired. I want to eat. I don’t feel like peeling, chopping, sautéing, whatever-ing. There’s no specific part of the process I particularly loathe. I’m just done with cooking and if I never have to do it again, that would be fine with me. Something tells me that’s not going to happen.

Morning light in my kitchen as coffee brews ...

My mother was smart. A terrible cook. The food she prepared was tasteless. Dry. At its finest, unimaginative and bland. At its worst, inedible. No one ever begged her to make that special dish of hers. If she said she didn’t care to cook that night (usually because she was involved in some other project, like hooking a rug or glazing a pot or completing an oil painting), we all leapt to our feet and volunteered to find our own lunch or dinner. “Please, Mom, don’t worry. We’ll take care of it.”

Anything to avoid Mom’s home cooking.

I should have followed her example. She was really a very smart lady. I didn’t realize how smart until long after I’d moved away from home. Oh well. Too soon old. Too late smart, eh?

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Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all plus a big helping of cynicism.

36 thoughts on “PERMANENT K. P.”

  1. This post brought a smile to my face. And then there were the comments wherein you spoke of making swordfish in prep time of 5 minutes. Oh, to not live in a landlocked state! Sam and I both absolutely love fish and would probably eat it seven days a week, but it is not good here and what is halfway decent is EXTREMELY expensive. So, we eat a lot of chicken. It does get old, but I have been trying some different recipes lately. Of course, both mom and sister are amazing cooks…you know, the ones who don’t have to measure anything and can throw together a delicious meal from whatever’s in the pantry and fridge. 😀

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    1. We are relatively more inland than we used to be when we lived in Boston. That’s actually on the harbor. But it’s a small state, so the coast is just 25 miles away and we have a decent selection of fish here. It isn’t cheap, but it’s probably a lot cheaper and better than you get. I remember when we lived in Jerusalem, there was pretty much no fish available. The Mediterranean isn’t as good a fishery as the Atlantic (or Pacific) anyway, so the overall selection of seafood in the middle east is not great. We ate chicken until I thought I would start to cluck.

      Yeah, I’m one of those people who can throw together a meal. I don’t know about amazing, but definitely experienced. After half a century, you gotta figure I’ve learned at least how to get it done efficiently. I also know how to shop so I keep mix and match ingredients available. I’m just really tired of cooking. I’m also tired of eating. I’m totally bored with anything I can cook at home. I want delicious food from faraway places and I don’t mean Boston 🙂

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      1. I know what you mean about wanting food from faraway places. I’ve been craving some curry and I just want to be able to make it here at home, so am looking for a good recipe. I get really bored with our rotation of spaghetti, meatloaf, chili, baked chicken, chicken and rice, pork chops, and the very occasional fish. I mean it, too…that is what we eat over and over and over. I’m bored and want to cook more, but haven’t figured out how to do so on such a tight budget. Mix and match items? Like what? Not to be an idiot, but any help is appreciated!

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        1. I call it “food ennui.” No matter how well you make them — and we have pretty much the same rotation — it gets boring. After a while, the idea of another meatloaf is enough to drive the family to McDonald’s. ANYTHING to get something that doesn’t taste the same.

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          1. “Food ennui”…I like that. It appears that there all sorts of things you can do in a crockpot, and the pictures look nice, but its all very heavy on the cream and cheese and I really don’t want to gain any more weight. And Lent is almost upon us, and it will be difficult to come up with a meatless Friday dinner that DSB will eat. Maybe that can be his fast food night. 😀

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            1. I did a lot of crock potting … and after awhile, it all tasted overcooked. Boiled. My current fun solution to hunger and I-don’t-want-to-cook is the breakfast sandwich eaten any time. I have a West Bend toaster which toasts the muffin while heating the meat (usually Canadian bacon or ham) and poaching the egg to the perfect size and consistency to fit on the muffin. It doesn’t melt the cheese, but it’s American cheese, so you just slap in on the muffin and it melts from the heat of the egg and bacon. It also functions as a plain toaster AND will make soft, medium, and hard boiled eggs.

              I have the 2-slice model, but it also comes in a 4-slice (two sandwich) model. You’d be amazed how satisfying the egg/cheese/bacon/English muffin sandwich is … and how totally hilarious it is watching the little toaster do it all at the same time. It’s a hoot … and yummy 🙂 And we aren’t sick of it. Yet.

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  2. Are we twins? My mother was a decent cook – but she only taught me to bake. Then I married an Italian and had a host of female relatives who were great cooks. I had to learn. Second time around and my husband will eat anything as his mother was not a good cook. He thinks I run the best restaurant in town. I am also cost-conscious and know what it cost to prepare a meal – eating out doesn’t happen too often and then it’s usually if I have a coupon. Plus, I am an East Coast transplant to CA and find the food here nowhere near as good as restaurants back home. Gotta run, pork roast to prep.

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    1. You do have wonderful produce that we don’t get in this climate. And SF has amazing restaurants. Not so much LA. Having a mother who doesn’t cook either turns you into a non-cook or a good cook. I liked to eat so unless I could bankroll a lot of eating out, I had to learn to cook. Which I did. NOW I’m tired of cooking. I want someone to cook for me but I haven’t gotten any volunteers, so until I do … I guess I just keep cooking. I used to bake, especially bread but I started to get really fat and quit. Baking doesn’t make you fat, but eating your own products sure does 🙂

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  3. My kitchen is basically Swiss, but as Switzerland is surrounded by four countries (including Liechtenstein) we are influenced from everywhere (except Liechtenstein). There are typical Swiss dishes but it seems to me that everyone enjoys the italian food most of all. Am I a good cook ? I don’t know but I rarely have leftovers. I cooked for two years in a Kinderkrippe, where pres-chool children are looked after while their mums go to work, and they ate it all. I don’t mind cooking as long as I have a well organised kitchen and above all a dishwasher.

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    1. I think the test of a cook is if people eat your food. Unless it’s a household of teenage boys because they’ll eat anything that doesn’t eat them first. We gave up using the dishwasher now that it’s just washing up for the two of us. I’m just tired of cooking. I’m almost as tired of eating. We are suffering from serious food ennui 🙂

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  4. I want the French friend to visit me too. Please! I’m with you about not wanting to cook. I’ve been using a lot of the small container frozen vegetables for assortment. On sale they are very reasonable.
    I use the rice cooker for my sweet potatoes, fast. I love my crock pot also.
    I really dislike cooking anymore and lunch/ dinner prep happens at the worst time.
    Going to try your breakfast ideas.
    Usually do egg whites with grilled onions & tomatoes.

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  5. After working in restaurants for about a decade, it took a long time before I could cook for myself again.
    Then I met my girl and started cooking for her, as an expression of love.
    Now, I do most of our cooking Sunday nights for the week. Still an expression of love, and I enjoy the logistical challenge of cranking out 4 – 5 dinners at one time in a tiny kitchen.

    (Plus, I like knowing my wife has good lunches and dinners every day.)

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  6. If I could cook, say, twice a week, I’d probably love it. But I want to eat about five times a day, so I get really get tired of cooking and everything that goes along with it–planning, shopping, cooking and then washing dishes. It just takes too much time.

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    1. I absolutely know where you are coming from. Cooking is so intrusive. Sadly, the only other choices seem to be junk food, starving, or getting rich enough to order in or eat out. So, like you, I cook.

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    1. I used to do a lot of crockpot cooking when I was working and while I still have a couple of crockpots, most of what we eat (fish) doesn’t lend itself to crockpot prep. We don’t eat much and very little meat. I do have a rice cooker, the most useful appliance I’ve ever owned. It not only makes rice, but steams veggies, doubles as a slow cooker AND it bakes cakes. Meanwhile, my toaster makes breakfast sandwiches — poaches an egg, toasts an English muffin.and warms up a slice of Canadian bacon simultaneously (cool, huh?). And I’ve got meal prep down to a science … the only thing easier or faster would be frozen TV dinners with almost no clean up.

      I haven’t been able quit cooking, but I sure have minimized it. Tonight I made swordfish and sesame soy rice. Prep took me less than 5 minutes, clean up about the same. Remarkably, the food also tastes good. If only I could do a Vulcan mind meld and teach Garry all the tricks in one mental transfer 🙂

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  7. I have to admit. I could go all day without eating and not realize it. My wife does not understand that at all.

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      1. I think the eating forget thing dates back to my working days. Eating was low priority for the “suits”. And, in the interest of truth, eating often came in the liquid variety in those working days. Celery often was the main course.

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  8. I have to cook also, or go out for wings and beer. I really see no other option. I love when my friend from France comes as he likes to cook and I get things I would never make. I wish he would come more often!

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