People shopping at fancier, more “natural” grocery stores buy all sorts of things. They especially buy all sorts of produce. In my new job as being That-girl-who-rings-up-your-groceries-and-seems-to-talk-a-lot-about-the-cheese-you-buy, I’ve learned about dozens of items I hadn’t heard of before, or at least didn’t know enough about to imagine using. A lot of things are still a mystery to me. Some just sound funny. Jicama. Tamarind. Gold nugget. Bok choy. Baby bok choy, which is obviously totally different. Plantain. Celery root. Dandelion greens. Lemongrass. Aloe leaves. Sunchoke. Turmeric. Red kale. Daikon. Crimini. Rutabaga. What the heck are all of these things?
I don’t know how to be an adult. I really don’t. I mean I try, but my current idea of a “grown up” dinner cooked for one is usually cook some quinoa or rice, open a can of beans, throw in some spinach, top with cheese, and warm up to melt said cheese. Bam! Vegetables, carbs, protein, and cheese. All the essentials. Wait, you mean, some people prepare more than one dish?
I also sell tons of cooking magazines. A lady came in today who lives out of town, and she bought hundreds of dollars’ worth of cooking magazines and cookbooks. I wonder sometimes if people who buy all this stuff have families, or if they are just people who like to cook. Because I can imagine if cooking for my family was a daily routine then I would get tired of figuring out how to use my celery root before it goes bad- okay, here’s some guacamole, nachos for everyone!
And it isn’t that I don’t like to eat healthy food. I do. I love watermelon, apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, kale. Seasonal citrus fruits. I actually have come to really appreciate squash. Peppers are often delicious, and potatoes are awesome. I will gladly eat all of these things. But I just don’t have the energy to make something elaborate with them.
I love soups because you can cook down some garlic and onions, add water, add other vegetables and spices, and then you have something delicious and healthy that probably took about as much effort as it took you to just cut everything up.
Pasta used to be a great easy dinner thing for me too, until I gave up wheat in search of fewer stomach pains. And the difference is significant enough that I’m not going to go back, even if the “science” doesn’t support my beliefs. Maybe it really is just a placebo, it’s a placebo that I like. But either way, pasta night is a thing in my past- gluten free varieties are just almost never any good, and they can be prohibitively expensive for something that can go from perfection to soggy mess in fifteen seconds of extra cooking.
Smoothies can be easy. Just soy milk, fruit, a banana, and some flax seeds, and spinach if you’re a fan, and it can be healthy and filling. Unfortunately even the effort of maintaining smoothie ingredients can slip my mind. I feel like the most forgetful person in the world sometimes. But anyway, I often imagine my mother, my aunt, and all my other adult, good-cook relatives (many of whom are female- what’s up with that? If I were a guy, would this failure be normal?) looking at my dinners and lunches, reading my sad attempts at meal plans, and shaking their heads. You need a starch, a protein, and at least two vegetables, dear, I can imagine them saying. How many times do we have to tell you that cheese is not a balanced meal?
Really though, sometimes I worry that my generation will become the ultimate group that can’t cook. We don’t want to put in the time, and even if we do want healthy home cooked food, we’re all about finding an easy way to do it that actually requires very little cooking from us. I know a lot of people these days will buy things like rotisserie chicken instead of fresh, so they can use it for things without actually cooking the meat. Or buying pizza dough instead of making it, or any other way to “cook” without actually getting many pans dirty. I don’t even know if this is bad, I just think it means we won’t know how to do things. It will go the way of sewing your own clothes and growing your own gardens- most people won’t have a clue, and people working in restaurants or writing the food blogs will become totally revered (for all I know, that is happening already…I’m not sure how else to explain restaurants devoted to cereal buffets and artisan toast).
What can be done? How do we, the common people, defend ourselves from be taken over by our chef and foodie overlords? I guess I don’t know, although I imagine it involves eating something other than ice cream for dinner.