Cooking: A Means of Relationship Building

Everybody eats, and when we are together it makes sense to share the job of getting a meal together. It’s called cooking, most of the time, and it’s one of my least favorite jobs. Knowing that I have to think of something to eat, two or three times every day, for the entirety of my life sounds like cruel punishment to me – made tolerable only by sharing the load.

My children have sometimes made the job easier, but a lot of our bonding over food is because they have made it more complicated. Youngest daughter E decided to be vegetarian in her early teens. My memory of those years is foggy, but there were a lot of brownies, and peanut butter/jelly sandwiches for her. The rest of us ate everything, but it was hard for me to think I might be shortening her life by not feeding her better.

Oldest daughter J, on the other hand, was early into amateur chef behavior. Even on our hike on the Appalachian Trail, she was the one who had to bring real coffee, and fixings for blueberry pancakes. Now I have given up learning how to use all the machines she has in her kitchen. Electric crepe griddle, blenders, choppers, mixer, espresso machine, ice cream maker, air fryer, steamers, driers, toasters, more – I just can’t think of them all. I find cooking with her very interesting because it’s about the only time I really use a recipe, and I get to learn a new gadget. I am in awe of her knife collection, and her many pans.

Looks dangerous, I know. What are all these?

Cooking with E became easier when she started eating more food and searching out some of her health problems. We spent time on special diets like the autoimmune protocol, where we did things like making spaghetti sauce out of beets, and talking about umami, and boiling bones for hours and hours. One of her favorite recipes from childhood is still the meatloaf made out of everything except meat.

We had fun making ordinary food. No beets were involved.

Even though I don’t like to spend hours in the kitchen on fussy food, I have inherited a gene that demands food on social occasions. I get it from Mom, better known in the family as Cinnamon Girl. She always make the cinnamon rolls for our family gatherings and although we have all tried to learn, no one does it quite like she does. The feature film “Cinnamon Girl”, made by my marketing guru brother, is a family treasure. It was supposed to be a tutorial for us all, but we laugh so much that it’s more of a comedy documentary.

I find that bonding and relationship building over and around food is really pretty available, easy and satisfying. I text the daughters and send pictures when I make milk soup. We laugh over our dinner menu of popcorn, just popcorn. We have rituals involving donuts and ice cream. Maybe it’s not all technically “cooking” but that’s where I put it. Just sayin’… close enough.

The chicken is sitting in a really awesome pan! Also, all those spices in matching bottles – I’ve never been able to do that…

Downsizing: The Terrible Meal

I’ve written several times about my desire to “lighten the load” of my household, to get rid of “stuff” before moving or dying, whichever comes first. But not lately, and lest anyone think the desire has abated I want to update the record. In fact, I am more determined than ever to whittle down to the amount of stuff that will fit in a good sized U-Haul van.  One trip. My determination was fueled by a week of helping someone else with a lot of things move those things into a storage unit. It was arduous, and being that everything is in storage it will have to be moved again sometime. We can hardly wait.

When people move do they throw away all their food? No, they take it with them. What if you live in a place where having a pantry stash is recommended? I have imagined how it would be in a hurricane after a week of no electricity and no food in the grocery stores to have a cupboard stocked with plenty. And I have one of those that I have been reviewing and deciding what to keep and what to trash. For instance, would you eat this?


I would. And there were other things. Last week I made pumpkin pie with no crust, which turns out to be pumpkin custard or pudding because for some odd reason I had several cans of (outdated) pumpkin and several cans of (outdated) sweetened condensed milk. It was delicious. It was untouched by time. I ate it all. And the (outdated) sauerkraut looked so fresh that I had to go out and get some hot dogs to go with it. Mind you, I test all these things.

There is still a box full of canned goods which must go soon or maybe two or three years ago. Today I wanted to use up a few things so made a menu based on stuff in the box. Dessert was first. There were cans of pie filling, blueberry and cherry. I had also found in my recently cleaned freezer some phyllo dough which I thought could possibly pass for pie crust. I will do anything to not have to make pie crust. There was also a little bit of ice cream in the freezer and I figured that old ice cream could possibly outweigh old pie filling if it wasn’t very good. Dessert, check.

The chicken was new thankfully. I just bought it last week so no freezer burn on that. But I did open up a can of cream soup to make gravy over it. And I wasn’t worried about the potatoes. Potatoes are either edible or rotten even if you don’t know how old they are. You’ve seen the green beans. Honestly they were pretty good okay and probably tasted the same back in 2011 when they would have been best by. Add a fresh green salad and I had a meal that was passable. I call it the terrible meal but I’ve cooked worse, lots worse. The greatest accomplishment was using up four cans in one meal. I was ecstatic.

I’m a little worried about this confession since some of my readers live close by and have eaten at my house. Will I have friends turning down meal invitations? I don’t know. I had a guest at this meal and he didn’t seem to mind, although, now that I think about it, his usual effusive comments were lacking. Now that I think about it, it was kind of a terrible meal, unless you can imagine a hurricane, starving people in other countries, or what they eat on Naked and Afraid. Then it would be a pretty good meal, just sayin’…

Don’t Say Diet, Please

Yes, I caved. There are times when advertising actually works.

I should give deliberate thought and action to taking care of my body. Even though I figure God will leave me here as long as he sees fit, I have a choice about some things. Do I want to be old AND miserable, with conditions I could have avoided? Not really. But staying healthy is not as effortless as it seemed to be back a couple of decades ago.

Knowing I was about to have a couple of weeks with only myself to feed (well, except for my daughter’s cats, dog and horses) I decided it would be a good time to try out a new eating plan. I prefer to say eating plan, rather than diet. It sounds more necessary. So I picked an eating plan that sounded a lot like the way I already eat (ensuring success, or nearly so). Appropriately it was called “Beyond Diet”. When my skinny friends on Facebook recommend a plan, I listen. But mostly, it didn’t cost very much and it promised two weeks of not thinking of what to have for dinner.  I’m in.

I went to the store to get food for week 1.  I guess that part went pretty well, and I actually like hanging out in Publix as long as I have a jacket with me. They had almost everything on the rather extensive list, except halibut and unsalted pumpkin seeds.  The food only cost $150 and I was thankful because it would have cost a lot more if I’d gotten everything organic like the list said.

My first big problem was getting it all in the refrigerator at my daughter’s house. Her fridg is full, but there is almost no food in it. She watches a lot of cooking shows and contests so she has weird stuff like coddled cream and Da Nuong and siracha sauce and different colored olives. No food. The bottom shelf has her veterinary vaccines and the cooler where she keeps specimens of stuff I don’t want to think about in connection with eating. I had to get rid of a few things to make room, sorry Jules.

The second big problem, as I forged ahead into day 1, was that I was getting behind in the schedule almost immediately. I had just finished cleaning up after breakfast and it was time for the snack, and then time for lunch.  No kidding, there is something to eat every two hours all day. It’s kind of like being tied up in the kitchen and for a while I considered looking for a plan called “Beyond Eating” so I could get something else done.  Good thing I know how to modify.

And the third thing, not really a problem but different for me, is that there is some kind of meat for protein almost every time I eat. Buffalo, turkey, chicken sausage, halibut – I almost never get these things. Did you know that meat is never sold in actual serving size quantities?  I’m supposed to prepare 4 ounces of ground turkey but it’s only sold in 10 ounce packages. Who decides that 10 ounces is better than 8, or 12 and why? But I can modify.

This morning, day 2, I did great for breakfast but then I went outside and lost track of time until afternoon snack – oops. And I’ve been invited out for dinner but my “free day”, so called, isn’t until day 7.  I can modify, good thing, huh?

Check in again in two weeks to see if I’ve experienced remarkable “Beyond Diet” results.  Just sayin’, as usual…

Yeah, it’s the makings of turkey chili. It was pretty good.

Santa’s White Christmas


Lately I’ve been thinking about too many things that make me cry.
my immobile car, my sick quadriplegic friend,
my missed deadlines, my unkept promises, the world, my indecision,
other people’s problems, a touch of loneliness,
the economy, occasional holiday self-pity,
things I’m longing for,
things I’m waiting for,
the grocery store checker who was sharp with me,
the things I can’t afford,
Syria again, Cambodia, China,
and more…

I hate to think ‘cause I just know I’m going to cry and my head is getting tired of crying.

Normally when I feel like this I put my hands in warm, soapy water and feel better immediately (washing dishes – try it, it works). Today there were no dirty dishes so I decided to cook something for supper instead. This was not the best idea for someone who has been crying a lot.

First, there is the problem of finding something to cook. What I needed to cook was the large bag of collard greens that had been keeping cool for, oh, maybe a week. I’m a Yankee girl and I know almost nothing about collards. I bought them because I know they’re nutritious and I should eat them. So I put them in the pan and turned up the heat, then started looking for a recipe. That is not the right order.

After the collards burned, I found just the right recipe. Collard soufflé. I had all the ingredients, in a manner of speaking. What that means is that I don’t have several of the ingredients but I have something I think will pass as a substitute. Recipes are for people who live in a grocery store and have a lot of weird things on hand. I only have whipping cream when there’s pumpkin pie to go with it. I never have Jarlsberg cheese. Fresh bread crumbs, is there such a thing? I had eggs, and collards so I went with it.

The mixture looked very soufflé-ish, which was encouraging, so I poured it in the soufflé pan. Well, I mean I poured it in the spring form pan which I thought was probably the size of a soufflé pan. Those spring form pans really aren’t liquid tight so of course the egg and milk started running out the bottom all over the stove top. Fortunately, I had a pan of boiling water ready in the oven to set it in. Evidently that is the way soufflés are cooked. We’ll find out. I’m afraid.

But I’m not going to cry. While rummaging in the freezer for something to cook I found an opened bag of Santa’s White Christmas coffee from 2009. I think this is the year to finish it off and I’m going to make some right now. I’m not going to cry. I’m just sayin’…

The Salad Is the Meal


At least that’s what it says on the new magnet we have on the front of the fridge. 20131003_130417

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been finding jars of unidentifiable, thick brown liquid in my refrigerator.  It’s the husband’s soup that he makes in our Vita Mix (the machine that pulverizes wooden blocks for demo).  I haven’t tasted any of it because I’m pretty sure the man has no idea of complementing flavors.  I’ve heard what he puts in there. He is on a roll.

Today we jumped in the truck and went to the Red Barn Flea Market to buy vegetables for the week.  He isn’t normally motivated to shop with me but there is a new angle to it now that makes him eager to choose what he’s going to eat.  He also helps prepare it for the fridge, and fixes a lot of his own meals. We spent $37 and filled two large bags with “stuff” to eat.  Ready for this? We bought beets, radishes and cilantro, yellow summer squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, avocados, celery, tomatoes, cabbage, green and red peppers, broccoli, cantaloupe and grapes.  The lady threw in two pears as a bonus.

We owe this new surge of enthusiasm to a doctor who lectured on public radio and inspired him (to put it mildly) to order a whole set of DVDs and educational material.  I have not wanted to ask what it cost – after all, it’s in the name of good health and I’m sure it will be worth it, whatever the price.

My husband is of a scientific bent and is quite impressed and interested in any research done on health topics.  The doctor who talks on the DVDs gives all kinds of evidence of the miraculous things found in vegetables.  He talks about body chemistry in great detail and his findings are that we have been wreaking havoc on our bodies with food that is bad for us.   One of the DVDs was of case studies of people whom the medical community had pretty much given up on, but who were helped back to great sounding health by eating a different way. There were lots of before and after pictures.  With good nutrition their bodies were able to reverse the course of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart  damage, fibromyalgia, ovarian cancer,  multiple sclerosis, numerous allergies, and psoriasis. And of course, they all lost weight as a side effect.

Truth is, he will get no argument from me about this.  I am totally in favor of anything that means less cooking for me, and this is a very simple way to eat.  He carved up the cantaloupe, I cooked the beets for a cold salad we had tonight, and with the nutritious beet tops I made a soup for tomorrow.  With all that other stuff we are set for the week.  I made a list so we won’t forget to eat anything.

We have been moving toward this type of diet for a while now but this will be the fine tuning that keeps his interest up.  He even wants to get other people interested in a group effort so he has someone with whom to share recipes and stories.  And there is also the online community which his paid subscription includes.

As for now, I am his group.  And I’m just sayin’ I can’t wait to feel better.