The package said “Easy and Convenient” and “Ready in the Microwave in 10 minutes.” As I slammed the microwave door shut (why do all microwaves have to be so noisy?), I wondered when did we decide that cooking was hard and inconvenient?
I’ve read the articles and heard the complaints. Parents today are constantly on the move as they run precious Susie from school to ballet to soccer and to riding lessons. We have easier lives than our parents and grandparents, so now we want to give our children all those extras that we never got to have. And isn’t it worth it? You run yourself ragged, but then comes the crowning moment when little Susie stands on stage and twirls with the other little princesses in perfect syncopation. Okay, that sounds a little snarky on my part, and seriously, I still cry a little every time one of my daughters does anything of note in front of a crowd. So, yes, I will drive from one end of the county to the other to get the girls to their separate extra-curricular activities. But why does that mean that I need to be easy on myself?
I think it comes down to a question of balance. You have a set number of hours in the day and only a certain amount of energy. The easy route is to nuke the frozen meals and give yourself points for putting something other than pizza and chicken nuggets in front of the family.
But let’s check off the other side of the equation:
Time in the kitchen: Any holiday meal, I can guarantee you that most of the people will at one time or another spend some time in the kitchen, even if they aren’t the ones cooking. The kitchen is the heart of the home. Why not carry this over to the everyday meals as well? I’ve noticed that if my older daughter has had a rough day and needs some attention, she will come and take a seat on the counter, while I put together a family meal. She knows that she can talk through things and unless my hands are full or grimy, I usually have to tap her knee or play with her hair to show her some affection.
Healthy Meals: If you tend to read labels like we do, even if you try to buy healthy food (in a box, frozen, or in a can), it seems that there is always chemicals added for preservation, sugar or high fructose corn syrup added for sweetness, and modified corn starch added for… well, I’m not sure why it’s modified or even in there to be honest. It is cheaper and less time to buy a can of beans, than to buy fresh beans, string and crack them, and either cook or can them. But what are those chemicals doing to our innards?
Our Planet: I’ve been studying our trash a lot lately. On days when I give in and nuke the meal, the trash grows accordingly with plastic bags, bottles, and cans. All of this is stacking up somewhere. And while it is not an immediate in-your-face issue for us, I think it will be just around the corner. If we consider that when my grandmother was young, we did not have this level of trash, it just seems to be growing exponentially, and for what? Ease and convenience. But when I start from scratch, the fruit and veggie cuttings go into our compost, the meat scraps are treats for the dogs, and for the trash, it’s usually the paper that the meat came in and probably a can for mushrooms (I can’t live without them!). Jars from canned veggies get washed and reused the following summer.
And still, we come back to the issue of ease and convenience, and of course, time. Oh, I sigh, I’ve worked all day – I just want to sit and relax for a little while. I’m the queen of rationalizations – I can talk myself into just about anything. I wanted to do better, but I always found a reason not to cook, not to write, and not to exercise. I have a full-time job. Why shouldn’t I enjoy the fruits of my labor? Because quite frankly, being easy on myself was not making me very happy. We were eating crappy food, having less energy and growing love handles, and I was only writing a few sentences a week.
The next time that I read “easy” and “convenient” for anything, I just have to wonder why not go for the challenge? Let’s make it hard and inconvenient – and see what it pays.