Garrett's parents are in town for about 3 weeks, and I was pretty excited to have a little "me time". For some reason that statement gives me visions of recent Britney Spears photos and smacks a little too much of self-help books (which kind of makes me wanna puke in my mouth a little) but I assure you I was just looking forward to concentrating on the minutiae of my daily life that I often put off because when presented with the 2 options, Garrett is ALWAYS more fun to hang out with.
I found that my first response to having some extra time to myself was to resort to my secret single girl style of grocery shopping. A couple days after his parents arrived I found myself at Trader Joe's with a cart full of single serving frozen foods, boxes of ready made pasta dishes, things I would never buy if I knew Garrett would be coming over (hello, garlic fries!), and of course a bunch of crappy junk food that I planned to use only to assuage my sorrows on the nights I would be forced to watch TV alone with a cold spot beside me on the couch where a certain someone usually sits (read: dunkers, won ton chips, mini peanut butter cups, and veggie chips...ugh!) You shut up! I can hear me getting fatter too and I don't need your judgmental glares exacerbating the situation. I thought it was AWESOME planning.
Yeah, so it turns out not so much. You see, said trip to Trader Joe's set me
back well over $50 and 3 days later with the prospect of having Garrett come over for actual dinner, I was forced into the realization that I had no actual food. Nothing to prepare, nothing to turn into a meal, and nothing to be the least bit healthy and/or nourishing (unless of course your kind of nourishing involves chips named after vegetables, containing no actual vegetables, and for the record, mine does not). I prefer to actually have tasty vegetables and a nice selection of meat and poultry at my fingertips, so it should be no surprise that I was thus, disappointed and in somewhat of a state of panic.
Thinking about what I had in the fridge, and imagining what economical things I could purchase to make a normal meal meant that I would ultimately have to go to Safeway and get MORE groceries! Are you kidding??? I thought I spent more money shopping for food for two, but clearly when I plan to eat for one (or more appropriately when I eat for lonely) but that's clearly not the case. The upside was when I realized that I could probably cook Garrett anything and he would eat it, and that made me feel somewhat relieved. I love that my boy has an appetite, because there is really nothing I relish more than cooking up a feast, though I must admit I wish he wouldn't tell me that everything I make tastes great, because I know this can't possibly be the case. Exhibit A - the dinner I cooked last night. YUCK! Bobby Flay I am not, and unfortunately I can still taste the combo of mint, cilantro, and vinegar that went horribly wrong. OH GOD AND PEAS! There were peas, too. VOMIT! It was just so bad. Although who am I kidding, it's incredibly endearing that most of the time (I hope) he is probably telling the truth with these wily compliments of his, and if he's not, well then I say --nice job going back for seconds, babe. It really lends authenticity to this little vignette you are performing for me where I make wretched food and you pretend to like it so as to not hurt my feelings. You know I love you for that, right? But, I digress. Basically all this thinking about singles versus couples and their food choices made me contemplate how my relationship has definitely affected the evolution of my cooking skills.
You see, I basically spent a good portion of my life knowing only how to boil water. And not in that cute way that Tyler Florence and that spritely blonde chick do it on the Food Network. You know that show called, aptly, "HOW TO BOIL WATER" where in the end it never fails that they come up with like an entire beef roast with the appropriate accoutrement, and then serve up some fruity cream cheese tart for dessert? Yeah, my water boiling days were nothing like that. Anyway, for most of my life cooking was never this ultimate skill that I wanted to perfect. I swear to you I only began to learn out of necessity, and even then I rarely practiced it because we all know how depressing "Cooking for One" is, so living that lifestyle was never too high on my list of priorities. By the way, in my poor mother's defense, this was not for her lack of trying, as growing up she was constantly trying to teach me these skills in sustenance that I would surely need to know, and as usual, my stubborn self just turned my nose up, and I therefore remained culinarily challenged for many many years. It wasn't until 2002 that I finally had a come-to-jesus moment with a box of Pasta-Roni, and I don't really think things have been the same since. I'm not saying I haven't consumed boxed pasta since then(see above story about Trader Joe's), I'm just saying it is no longer a part of my regular kitchen rotation.
I have to admit though, that for many years I think that I felt that cooking was sort of this anti-feminist skill acquision. Girls I knew who liked to cook were the same girls who fantasized about what their wedding dresses were going to look like or what they were going to name their children when they were born. I have never been that girl. Frankly, if I ever do get married, I fantasize about eloping in a pair of sweat pants from the GAP and a hoodie that doesn't make me look fat somewhere where corking fees don't exist and red wine comes out of a fountain right next to the Mikuni dispenser, but that's neither here nor there. The point is, I never took the time to learn to cook, because it has always screamed of feminine oppression. I feared that having this skill-set would mean I was stuck constantly taking care of other people's needs, and then on top of it(eek) HAVING TO DO THE DISHES! The thought of myself barefoot in the kitchen was enough to make me want to eat freeze dried foods out of pods for the rest of my life...without using filtered water!!!!!
Somewhere along the line, however, I realized that cooking a nice meal, was a nice thing to know how to do. I always liked having friends over and it seemed to only get better if I could have them over AND we could eat. I know, SHOCKER! I also realized that cooking appeals to that part of my brain that loves a challenge, and what could be better than achieving your goal -- and then getting to eat it? Not much, I tell you. NOT. MUCH. It's ridiculously satisfying, really, even when you have to touch slimy ligaments and bones. And above and beyond even that - how great is it to be able to make yourself anything you could possibly want, regardless of time and place. Eggs and potatoes at midnight is pretty empowering. Not the least bit oppressive as I once thought. Oh how I mourn those years -- all that pasta and foods from a box. I shudder...
When Garrett and I began mealing together, it just got even better. Cooking for him is something I LOVE doing. Not only because of his appetite, adventurous spirit when it comes to food, or his complimentary phrases (ok so it might be for the phrases), but because for the first time in my life I feel kind of nurturing. I haven't spent my whole life having those traditional girl-thoughts about motherhood, nesting, or being a wife, but that doesn't mean I don't have the desire to care for someone else and provide for them something that is tangible and full of love. Cooking for him (and with him, since I've said time and time again that he is the best sous chef in town) has allowed me to express that little nurturing voice that I do actually have inside me, and for a long time I hadn't really had another person so deserving of my nurturing. Now that I think about it, it's kind of nice, actually.
And besides, most of the time (HALLELUJAH!) he does the dishes.