Our Eating Lives features stories about how food, cooking, and eating have shaped who we are and how we live.
I am a lazy cook. I am a boring cook. Decent, sometimes creative, but usually boring. I use the same three spices on just about everything, like Quizno’s with its shaker of herbs that every sandwich gets doused in. For something “different,” I’m a big fan of seasoned salt or Cavender’s.
In any given week, there’s some variation of homemade pizza (on this week’s menu, magneted to the side of the fridge: BBQ chicken pizza), a slow-cookered meat (this week: butter chicken), and, invariably, a form of taco (last week, bean; this week, fish). These have become throw-it-together-quick standards in the Solomon kitchen. I also have a well-defined comfort zone. I’m not brave like Kit. I’m looking forward to fall and winter, the seasons of chili and stew and heavy meat-and-rice-or-barley throw-togethers.
I’ll start baking again soon, maybe even this week, when temperatures are back down in the 90s and turning on the oven won’t make it a hundred-and-hell degrees in my southwest-facing, sweaty kitchen. Yes, I’ll bake some boring cookies, some lackadaisical cakes, some plain scratch cornbread. Maybe some zucchini bread if I’m feeling adventurous. Which I won’t be.
Being a lazy cook also means I’m a lazy eater, and thank the gods my husband isn’t picky. (And I do pay attention to my ingredients and try not to use a lot of shitty, science-overload abominations, but I don’t try to make things pretty.) Since I work from home, I’m here for all of my meals (except for the occasional Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich when I’m out running errands—usually consisting of visiting Target, my second home). I make scrambled eggs and toast or waffles every morning and some kind of noodle for lunch, and I usually snack on something I’ve baked or maybe an extra jar of iced coffee. Mostly the coffee.
Obviously, I’m not one of those people who takes amazing pleasure from preparing her own food, chopping and dicing and mixing things to perfection, and appealingly plating the finished meal so it’s ready for its Instagram closeup. I envy those people a little. Food is not a hobby for me, nor is it a spiritual practice—though I get the appeal, I can’t get past the “what a chore” element. Friends of mine make beautiful meals with ingredient lists that often require some googling for me. I try not to shame myself, but in the face of the beautiful meals they create, it’s difficult not to. I’m even a little shy about pinning the recipes that really appeal to me on Pinterest. I just don’t have a very refined or curious palate.
When I’m abroad, I suspend all food disbelief. I eat things I can’t remember because I didn’t bother to ask what they were or simply focused on enjoying them and didn’t write them down later. And I love it all, even when I don’t like it, because it’s all about the experience. At home, I’m complacent and timid; abroad, I’m bold. My town doesn’t cater much to the adventurous eater, so even restaurants allow for my passivity. But Athens and London and Rome are perfect places for getting outside your own sheltered-by-choice home kitchen.
I’m sure part of it really is that I don’t have to google anything, I just let the waiter bring me a plate of something, and I eat it. I don’t have to figure out how to cook it, spice it, or plate it. I just devour it, often using my fingers to greedily pick up morsels too small for utensils so that I don’t miss out on any of it.
Cooking requires such intimate knowledge of the food long before sitting down to eat, so I can’t begin to replicate that experience myself, even though just thinking about it makes me hungry. Makes me want to go sit on a balcony at a restaurant with terrible service looking out over the volcano in Santorini, eating grilled octopus crepes with a beer the size of my head, a few shots of ouzo, and a breeze so strong that I give up on my napkin.
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