Just Shut Up and Cook. And Then Write About It Already. Sheesh.

In Thinking About Food on November 1, 2014 at 4:15 pm

I’m not sure why it’s been so hard to just sit down and write a blog post. I mean, yeah, there’s the usual there’s-no-time stuff: working full-time, parenting a preschooler, doing all that boring, soul-sucking grown-up shit (laundry, dishes, flossing, getting gas, vacuuming, etc etc ad nauseum), being down-to-the-bone-tired all the damn time. But there’s something bigger, more paralytic, going on here.

This is something I ostensibly want to do, right? No one’s making me write a blog. This isn’t a job (because believe me, I am definitely not getting paid for this), an obligation. So why all the dread/doubt/inertia?

Well, for starters: I’m out of practice. For the past few years, we’ve been in culinary survival mode. We joked that the theme of The Burger’s first birthday party should’ve been Frozen Pizza and Espresso, since those were the two things that essentially underwrote our first twelve months of parenthood. Then for the next two years, we either ordered takeout, went out to eat, or, on our more ambitious nights, went into dump-and-stir mode: sprint home from work, open the jar of Creole/Asian/Indian/Italian/American sauce, add protein, simmer, eat, bath-book-blah-blah-blah, collapse into bed.

But a few months back, things suddenly, magically, unexpectedly got easier. This coincided with our exit from what a friend of mine calls The Gear Phase. No more strollers, diapers, diaper bags, playpens. Free and easy. Easy enough to spend more than 15 minutes on making dinner. Easy enough that we actually had a couple of dinner parties with actual grown-ups, where I planned a menu! came home from work early! made several courses! felt like my old self (albeit not the old self who spent two full days making bao for a Chinese New Year dinner party) for an evening!

But really: who are we kidding. Fifteen minutes is still about all we’ve got some nights, and we still rely on dump-and-stir way more than I’d like to admit, especially for someone who writes a freaking food blog. And here’s the thing: sometimes I don’t even dump and stir. The other night Lulu and I ate Applegate chicken tenders and sweet potato puffs and drank apple cider on the couch while watching Charlie Brown movies because I was too tired to move (and to be perfectly honest, the tenders looked awesome when I pulled them out of the oven, way better than the salad I was pretending I was going to eat instead, so I put the salad back in the fridge and then dumped a bunch of rum into my apple cider to prove that I’m actually still a grownup). So really: who (besides my parents) wants to read a food blog written by a fraud who doesn’t even cook from scratch all the time?

AND, the whole premise of the blog was to try a new food every week. And even though we’re making dinner at home nightly now (I honestly can’t even remember the last time we went out to dinner or got takeout), even when I’m cooking from scratch, I’m not really trying anything new. At this point, it’s easier to pull out a bunch of dishes I know in my bones that I don’t need recipes for than to pull together a complex shopping list, go get all the ingredients, prep a bunch of mis-en-place, and have to consult a recipe every three minutes while simultaneously trying to make sure whatever’s on the stove doesn’t burn and that my kid doesn’t liberally salt the entire couch, living room carpet and foyer (which only happened once, but once was enough). Stuff with inside-joke names like Chicken Pile, Pasta Bake, Six-Hour Nachos, That Bean Thing. Nothing fancy or elegant or even anything you’d make if anyone other than your family was coming for dinner.

(Also also, which doesn’t really stop me from writing but does keep me wondering: isn’t this kind of a dumb name for a blog? I mean, really. Who even cares about Mark Twain any more? I don’t even care about Mark Twain any more.)

So here’s what: I’m just going to write. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, and it doesn’t matter if you’re reading it, and it doesn’t matter if it’s new either to me or to my family (though The Burger’s young enough that almost everything is still technically new to her) or to you.

Because here’s the thing: pretty much anything is new if you’re making it with an almost-four-year-old helping you. It’s either going to take ten thousand times longer to prepare than you’d anticipated it would, or you’re going to forget (or add) an ingredient that is (or isn’t) supposed to be in the recipe so it’ll taste different than the last time you made it, or you’re going to realize anew how much fun it actually is to make the damn thing. Or, most likely and ideally, all three of the above.

So maybe Smart Cabbage’ll be taking a different tack in the coming weeks/months/years. Maybe it’ll be more narrative driven than instructionally focused, and a better tool for people who want to cook dinner for themselves and their families but don’t have a ton of time, energy or ambition — at least at this point in their lives — to experiment than it will be for the bold culinary adventurer. Maybe you’ll get stories about how The Burger and I made a bunch of theoretically boring junk like applesauce, or mashed potatoes, or meatballs — but see how those old warhorse dishes can be shockingly, incredibly fun when made with a tiny sous chef experiencing them for the first time.

  1. The thing is – who has time to read a food blog to get inspired to make new, exciting and intricate dishes anymore, with an almost 4 year old and the nightly ordeal of trying to make sure she has healthy food to eat (that she will like)? I’d much rather read a food blog that can give me new ideas about how to feed my little family and how to get my kiddo to help in the kitchen in ways I would have never knew she was capable, and to get her excited about cooking new, exciting and intricate dishes one day. I’m excited!

  2. I love that you are writing again – just as I am pushing myself to write again I appreciate the motivation. I SHOULD write about the ketchup that took me 3 days to make…or the fact that I finally made ricotta (or any) cheese for the first time on Friday to put into a lasagna but ordered a pizza for dinner because I realized the cheese had to sit for a few hours…lasagna a day later.

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