Food, Of Course
Is there ever enough to say about food, about my obsession with it, my thinking about what we’re going to cook for dinner each night for the next week – excluding our nights out with friends when all I think about is where we should go and should I order the grilled cod or the pumpkin pasta. I also talk about food frequently with Tom, and with my pals, “what are you doing for dinner”? I ask Susan daily when we walk our dogs together by the beach at sunset. She’s usually preparing something more glamorous that we are. She’s capable of fearlessly substituting beans for peas in a pea soup recipe when she doesn’t have peas in her pantry and still turning out a marvelous soup creation. I know, I’ve eaten it.
When that happens to me, I must run to the market for, let’s say, a single item since I must always follow recipes precisely. I need to do that today when I’m going to make a sausage and bean casserole, two of my favorite foods. The recipe calls for 2 cans of great northern beans, which I don’t have in the house and in fact have never heard of. I have two cans of kidney beans and pinto beans, but I’m terrified of substituting those, I think the whole dish will be a bust and Tom will order dreary Chinese food delivered for dinner.
I get a lot of recipes on my email from The New York Times, which are much too complex for me, using ingredients that I can’t even pronounce not to mention utensils that I don’t own. Also, MyRecipesDaily sends articles like “40 Piping Hot Family-Friendly Casseroles to make Tonight” which turns me off on many levels. Something called AllRecipes sends me emails every day, mostly fit for families of eight and I’m not adept at cutting them down for Tom and me. Once in a while I see something that looks tasty and doable and doesn’t scare me just reading it. I’ll print it out and put it in the folder on my desktop.
You ask how often I cook one of these invitations from AllRecipes? So far, never. But I do look at them from time to time as they gather age in my folder. There’s one for vegetarian gnocchi with spinach and mushroom-butter sauce. It sounds divine, doesn’t it? And simple. Why haven’t I made it? I have no idea. How about the sesame shrimp stir-fry? I happen to have all 15 ingredients in my pantry or freezer right now – I always keep a raw shrimp package in the freezer for unspecific emergencies. That’s impressive, I think, and I have a beautiful wok to cook stir-fry dinners frequently. I even own sesame oil and teriyaki sauce. But I cook mine with the same ingredients every time, no recipe, and it’s delicious. I’m actually proud of it.
Tom and I have mostly similar tastes as well as loves and hates in food. Except for some important differences. He hates arugula, beets, radicchio, any kind of what he calls “bitter lettuce” and lemon (except in a pie or some cocktails.) I love all those foods and feel bitter that I can’t make a salad with any of them, unless I make two separate salads, which I’m not committed enough to do. So I’ve forsaken them as well as marvelous arugula. Bitterly.
On the other hand, he loves oxtails whereas I have a problem even typing the word. He keeps a package in the freezer, I flinch every time I pick it up by mistake. I know he would love to cook them for us for dinner, but it will never happen. So sometimes he’ll prepare them for himself for lunch, while I bury myself on our beachside porch with a magazine, far away from the smell and sound of the abhorrent thing from the tail of a cow.
Now, some talk about food markets. I shop at only 3 markets, several times a week: Gelsons, Trader Joes and Pavilions. All are within ten minutes of our home. All are different, good for many things, bad for some. Gelsons is organized, quiet and more expensive than earrings at Neiman Marcus. Pavilions doesn’t carry diet salad dressings or sugar-free coconut yogurt for some ridiculous reason. Also, they keep their cheese in four different places. Trader Joes, which has many exotic packaged dinners and well-priced produce, also has a lot of junky frozen foods which look enticing on the package but are boring after you microwave them for three minutes. And like every store, their prices have risen dramatically since Covid. But Gelsons generally has everything I want, which live in one place instead of four. And I get coupons in the mail which give me $10 off a purchase. I tell myself that the prize makes up for their shocking prices.
The other day the fresh scallops at Gelsons were $49 a pound. I’ll say that again for emphasis: $49 a pound. We love scallops and I have a heavenly recipe for scallops Provencal, with garlic and white wine. I tell my thrifty self that I’d spend more for them in a restaurant, but I can’t make myself buy them. I usually end up with $16 a pound salmon, after staring longingly at the scallops. I love my well-seasoned broiled salmon of course, but oh, those scallops.
I don’t like going to the supermarket with Tom. He usually gets absorbed in one aisle, not moving ahead fleetly as I do, and when I see him again, his cart is filled with things we don’t need, like a new corkscrew, meat thermometer or a jar of pasta sauce with olives that we’ll never eat. Shopping at Costco with him is even a scarier experience. A month ago he bought a bacon fryer there which we’ve not used as yet. We rarely cook bacon. Last weekend I decided to prepare a brunch for us of cheese omelets and bacon. When I took the bacon from the frig, it was mostly green from age and we tossed it out. Instead, we cooked the spicy salami that was part of a three-salami gift pack that Tom’s brother Jack sent us for Christmas. I don’t know when we’ll use the bacon gadget.
I like shopping at Pavilions primarily for their deli counter. I buy pints of chicken salad, egg salad, cole slaw and on Fridays a whole roasted chicken for $5.00. Just last week a nutty thing happened. I’m embarrassed but I feel I must talk about it. I ordered four turkey meatballs in tomato sauce, for a lovely lunch or light dinner for us. The counter gal, wearing a starchy white uniform filled a plastic container. I happened to be watching carefully instead of gazing at the other food trays and was sure she had only put three in the container, hidden under the sauce. I asked her and she denied it, rang up a bill for four. I took the plastic package and walked to another part of the store. Stealthily, I opened it and there they were, three turkey meatballs covered in tomato sauce. I walked back to the deli, I confronted her with her crime and she wouldn’t talk to me, instead turning me over to a calm young lad who put the fourth meatball in my package. When I got to the checkout counter, I asked to speak to the manager. I told her my story and she seemed horrified, assured me she would handle this with the deli woman and took the meatballs off my bill. I still felt mistreated as well as a bit gratified, but somehow loony when I told Tom the story. He laughed, said I had done the right thing, and dove into a meatball.
I tell you this absurd Tale of the Turkey Meatballs to demonstrate how insane I can be about anything relating to food.
I’ll end with the scallops. I ask myself, why can’t I buy them occasionally? It’s not going to affect our mortgage or our retirement plans. It’s $49 for God’s sake! It’s not a mink coat. Is this a topic for my shrink at his fee of $180 an hour?
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