What’s Cookin’?

Do you cook? I mean REALLY cook. Every night?

For the past 35 years I had been solely in charge of planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning up all meals… and especially dinner. This was not an easy task for a family of five individuals. So many variables went in to making it a success. Trying to remember every food the kids liked or hated, foods within my budget, easy to cook, or at least make ahead, who would be home that night for dinner, wondering if there would be ‘extra mouths’ to feed, hoping leftovers would be good for lunch, etc.

The rule at our dinner table was, “Eat it!” I made sure each meal was tasty and healthy. One evening my son refused to eat his peas. I refused to let him leave the table until his plate was clear. He threatened to call the police because he thought I was being unusually mean. My reply was, “Go right ahead. Would you like me to dial the number for you?” I further commented, “By law I must provide you healthy meals, no where is it written you have to like it. So go ahead, call the authorities and tell them you don’t like your peas and I’m forcing you to eat them.” Needless to say he didn’t call.

Life moves on and I am no longer cooking for a family… it’s just me. The three hours between 5:00pm and 8:00pm are the longest hours in the day for me. I simply do not know what to do with myself. I have no desire to cook just for me. My routine for the past year has been to eat some cheese and crackers for dinner. However, today I decided it was time to ‘get with the program’ and make myself a yummy dinner.

I have only myself to please this weekend, so I decide to make MEATLOAF! Not only is it a favorite of mine; I can slice it up and freeze pieces for later. My mouth is drooling as I think of a meatloaf sandwich slathered with mayo and ketchup in my near future for lunch. For tonight however it will be hot from the oven, roasted potatoes on the side, topped off with a salad. Oh… and a glass of wine to complete the picture.

As I mush the ingredients together with my hands I now remember how much I loved to cook. “So THIS is what I used to do between 5 and 8,” I comment to myself. The kitchen smells heavenly. Meat, potatoes, and veggies fill the kitchen air. An hour later I hear the oven timer DING! Yea… dinner’s ready!

I plate the food, take a picture of my yummy potatoes in case I want to Facebook my cooking talent, and place it on the table. I sit down ready to dive in. My first bite is of the potatoes. The skin is roasted to perfection and seasoned with a bit of salt, pepper, and thyme. The potato bursts in my mouth, and the creamy goodness in the middle oozes down my throat. Next up, the meatloaf… eh… not my best, but good enough. In the past few years I have made AWESOME meatloaves from a recipe by America’s Test Kitchen… but those days are over… let’s just say, sad memories. Any way.. I threw the rest of the meatloaf in the trash.
I want to get excited about this meal… but I just can’t seem to muster up any enthusiasm. Hmmm… it hits me all at once why I don’t cook dinner for myself. It has nothing to do with the food, or the effort, or cleaning up. Nope… I realized I do not like to eat by myself. Eating is a social activity in my eyes. Without any one to talk to I have an option to read a book, watch TV, or look at the dogs… watching me eat. Alone. None of those options are appealing to me.

For some strange reason it doesn’t bother me at all to read or watch TV while I chow down on crackers and cheese. So I guess I will just continue my normal routine.

While providing for my family I loved the challenge of creating a balanced meal that everyone would enjoy. As the kids began to grow up and move out… and my husband became ill, the local church took over and provided our family with delicious and different dinners. Some we liked, some we didn’t.. but they were all made with love and eaten as a family at our table.

Again my life changed, and so did my eating. Once my husband passed, a daughter married, a son went to school and more… my desire to cook began to wane. Not only that, my economic situation was so strained that buying food became a luxury I could not afford. There were many nights I went to bed starving, and many weeks I ate economical eggs two meals a day. Eventually I stopped cooking altogether… and lost so much weight. Until… I met a guy… who liked food and cooking as much as I! Whoopie! We met for dinner once a week, and cooked together on the weekend trying new recipes all the time. Left overs were packed up for me to eat the rest of the week. Life was fabulous… my weight began to balloon.

Life is cruel at times, and all good things must come to an end. I am no longer with this guy. I could care less about cooking. This time however it isn’t that I cant afford it, it’s simply that I no longer have the desire. Food doesn’t excite me the way it used to… and that’s sad. I remember how my eyes would widen as flavor and texture hit my taste buds. One meal was so spectacular my partner threw his fork across the counter in pure surprise! Now… I eat because I have to. My tummy gurgles to remind me it needs fuel. I grab whatever is in the house, doesn’t need to be prepared, and can be consumed while sitting in my big comfy leather chair. Hey… look on the bright side! Maybe I will lose all this extra fat and will be able to throw my SPANX in the trash!

What are your thoughts? Do you cook for just yourself? What do you cook? What do you do when you eat? What do YOU do between 5pm and 8pm?