This blog is too new and quiet to have a frequently asked questions page, but since starting it, I’ve been having lots and lots of conversations with myself about it. These are some themes that keep recurring:
Q. Aren’t you going to gain a load of weight cooking all these meals?
A. Not really. Sure, I probably won’t lose the 15 lbs I did last time, but my usual starvation approach to heartache generally gets me as far as exactly one pair of jeans in a smaller size. I feel then, just a little bit, in a shallow way, as if perhaps every cloud does have a silver lining. And pretty soon, maybe even due in part to that small confidence boost, I quickly return to Normal Human Size and I have to get rid of the stupid little jeans. It’s dumb. Also, when I’m not cooking, I eat terribly. TERRIBLY. Not a little bit terribly. Not an “oh, it’s so naughty, tee hee” sort of terribly. I eat the way seven-year-old-me naturally assumed I would eat when I was a grown up and finally allowed to make my own food choices. Which translates to a diet roughly composed of 50% chicken nuggets and 50% processed carbohydrates+cheese. Example? One day this week I was weepy and forlorn (okay, more than one day this week, but I am talking about a specific day) and I had no food in the house. I had no plan, I had no list, I just knew I needed food or there would be falling over.
I climbed onto my bicycle and headed into the cold wind and onto the brand new bike paths to the nearest grocery store. I was feeling exceedingly sorry for myself and all I wanted was a hug and possibly a blankie. But instead, here I was, forced to go to the grocery store ALL ALONE. I am telling you, it was a sad, sad, resentful little scene. I wandered through the store in an apathetic blur, throwing things into my basket at random. And would you like to know what I bought? Here is a complete list:
1 carton milk
1 six-pack of chocolate bars
2 packages of crackers
1 tub of “cheese product”
1 package processed cheese slices
1 box of sugary cereal
1 loaf of white bread.
1 gigantic tub of hot chocolate mix
1 package of sweet little pies
1 sweet potato. (Yeah. I don’t know either.)
The only reason there are not 48 boxes of Kraft mac and cheese on that list is because they DON’T EVEN SELL IT HERE WHICH IS SO UPSETTING. Anyway...
When I got home and unpacked it all I realized everything was brown, orange, or white, with very little nutritional value. I didn’t even buy the fortified versions of the cheese products! And yeah, that’s pretty much what I eat when I don’t make the effort to cook. That and the aforementioned chicken nuggets. The dream diet of a six year old. Consumed in large adult servings, at extremely odd hours.
When I take the time to plan a meal I generally get a lovely sensible creative adult head on me and I tend to buy aspirational ingredients. The kind of ingredients that increase your self esteem just by picking them up off the shelf. Things like, I dunno, quinoa. Artisanal vegetables. (is that a thing?) Eggs. Anyway, these things tend to be way healthier. And when I sit down at a table, I eat them more thoughtfully, so I eat a nice normal portion. Instead of, you know, eight slices of bread and nutella. In bed. So no. I don’t think I’m going to get fat from this project.
Q. Isn’t this going to cost a load of money?
A. Not really. It’s possible to go overboard on the aspirational ingredients, yes. And you forget how expensive it is to restart a kitchen over from scratch. When I moved out, I didn’t divide the spice rack. I probably should have just taken the whole thing, but I didn’t. You start to realize that it takes a bit of money to completely re-stock all the basics you used to just know you always had in the cupboard. New spices. New ketchup. New olive oil. New salt grinder. New stock cubes. New flour. New vinegars. It goes on and on. It doesn’t take too long, and if you do it bit by bit, it doesn’t cost the earth. But you do feel it.
And it’s possible for your grasp to exceed your reach (or is that the other way around? Tricksy idiom!) I made this mistake this week. Feeling a bit ashamed after my grocery store trip, I headed off to the weekend market full of resolutions, good intentions, and optimism. I got a little carried away and spent quite a bit of money on fancy organic meats, fully intending to cook up fantastic, creative meals. Didn’t happen. I didn’t want to cook. I just wanted to sit in bed and eat crackers and watch endless episodes of television on the internet. I didn’t want meat. And I forgot to put it in the freezer. After half a week in the fridge, it all went a bit funny. I hate to say it but I’m a real princess about food or milk or anything that might even be the slightest bit “off”, and I just knew I couldn’t make myself eat it. I felt like it was disgraceful, but I just boiled it all up and fed it to the neighbourhood cat. I just let it go.
But in general, I don’t think it’s going to be that expensive. Shitty processed food is expensive, and chicken nuggets aren’t as cheap as you think. Also, because I’m cooking for one, I’m buying small quantities. I keep thinking of my favourite part of what is possibly one of the most severely gendered children’s books ever written: Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott. You can read the chapter for yourself here, but basically, a little girl is given a tiny little working kitchen to learn to cook in, and she makes everything in miniature. Her steak comes in “doll’s pounds”. And it’s kind off the same in my kitchen. I can afford to buy lovely things because I only need “doll’s pounds” of anything. And even cooking in miniature, I usually make too much, and it turns into lunch tomorrow. Any leftover ingredients are usually incorporated into the next night’s dinner. So it’s pretty economical.
Q. WTF are you doing writing a food blog? You have never aspired to being a food writer!
A. I don’t know that this really is a “food blog”, or whether any of this is really “food writing”. I make up some of the recipes, but there have been and will be a lot of general adaptations and borrowings, and I will be sure to attribute them properly. I’m not so food-motivated that I lie around thinking up new recipes and feel a burning urge to rush out and share them with the world. Thank god for those people, but I’m not really one. I like to be imaginative with food, but I’ve always been more of an eat-to-live than live-to-eat kind of girl.
So the food thing...it’s a project. It’s a focus for a hard time. It’s developing a new skill, and working on the whole “loving yourself” thing. (Ah, the warm security blanket of scare quotes.) All of those are antidotes to emotional pain. And it’s a frame for talking about stuff that’s a bit raw and heavy on its own. Writing about broken hearts is a hard thing. It’s easy to whine and wallow, and I’m not interested in that. I don’t want to write it, and you don’t want to read it. But I do believe heartbreak is a universal and deeply significant thing. And so is food. I dunno, it just kind of happened.
Q. Do you still miss him?