By: Amber Kinser
By now you’re in on two of my most important strategies for navigating the choppy waters of motherhood and careerhood (Secrets #1 and #2 in previous posts). And both of them have to do with clothing—one is about keeping yours career-ready longer, and the other is seeing dirty family laundry as friend-not-foe, as a fount of probably-solving resources, rather than a drain on your spiritual resources. But woman cannot live by used and re-used laundry alone, oh no. She must also have food—and not just for spilling on that laundry, but also for feeding herself. And her family if she must. My focus here is on the bane of my existence—dinner. Dealing with dinner is probably the only part of my life that I hate. Even with my partner sharing responsibility for it, I hate even the discussion of it, especially when said discussion is located late in the day. What I want to do when I get home is sit. Sit and sit and sit. But the only way to get a meal that way is in the drive-through. And you know? drive through doesn’t do it for me like it used to. I’m just not feelin’ it at the end of the day. Now, in fairness, I must say that I do sit and sit and sit, plenty of times, eating the food my partner has prepared for me, so let’s get that out there. But dude is a late-night kind of guy, and dinner comes later for those breeds than it needs to come for me and plus, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, dude is not a vegetable-cooking type guy, unless by vegetable you mean baked potato. Or maybe mashed. (Bob Evans’ pre-packaged specifically, which, I must say, are awesome as mashed spuds go; you don’t even need gravy with these things because they’re magical).
But I can’t seem to shake the desire for food more like my mom made. I’m pretty much a carnivore, and my preference is meat and veggies in some combination and, ideally, a salad. Now, I’ve pretended to be vegetarian at various times in my life, and I grew up in a family of six that stretched a dollar so thin you could barely recognize it as currency, so I’m no stranger to meatless meals. Plus, I do love vegetation in all its beautiful and varied and delicious forms. Why, I just made a toasted cumin chili with acorn squash recently and it was heaven (though I forgot to toast the cumin seeds and had to use ground cumin; a substandard substitute to be sure). But mostly it’s meat for me. And this is especially convenient for when I’m pretending to eat low-carb food, if by low-carb you mean no croutons please and splitting in half each piece of bread that I dip in herb-and-garlic olive oil, and then eating both halves. And the other desire I can’t seem to shake is the one for smelling food cooking in my house. It warms me. It soothes me. Makes me feel cared-for.
I reconcile these desires with my fatigue at the end of my work day using Secret #3: the slow cooker. The slow cooker emerged on the pop domestic food scene in the seventies and fell out of fashion for a bit—don’t know why, really, except maybe that it cooked foods absolutely to death, potentially depleting them of all nutritional value I suppose, but whatever. The slow cooker is back though, and awesome. You can go from super-simple, 4-ingredient, most-from-a-can recipes, to ones that call for one chili pepper in adobo sauce, or fresh ginger root, or toasted cumin seeds. And you’ll likely make the decision about how sexy you want your recipe to be based on how much time you have in the morning to muster it up. Anyway, any fond feelings I may have about dinnertime are absolutely contingent on whether or not I’ve got something in the ‘crockpot’ while I’m at work. I do love coming home to the smell of supper. And other than a salad sometimes, I rarely offer up anything on the side; just the crockpot fare—usually meat and veggies, soup, stew, or beans. We come home, we dish up our plates, and we sit and sit and sit for a while. The slow cooker changed my life, I swear. I do have to get rolling a little earlier in the morning, but comparing standing in the kitchen, mixing and chopping things in the morning, to doing the same thing at the end of the day when everyone else in the house is tired and…uninteresting…well there IS no comparison. It’s doable early and hell later and that’s the long and short of it. When I know during the day that food is cooking for me, I feel like my morning self is caring for my evening self and I do appreciate her! Now, all this appreciation depends on whether she remembered to turn the thing on, which, often enough, alas, she doesn’t. BUT. When she does. YUM. When my partner asked me why I put all that effort into hectic mornings when people would be just as happy with something more haphazardly assembled by either of us at the end of the day, I told him because I like it. I do it for me.