My kitchen has been surrendered to my latest mania. It’s actually rather ironic that I not only have cookbooks, but subscribe to two cooking magazines and actually have things like capers, shallot salt, four different types of oils and three different vinegars, all which get regular use in my recipes. Before I met my husband, opening a jar of spaghetti sauce, boiling some noodles and combining the two was a homemade meal in my book. I’d never even cooked a hamburger on the stove until after I went away to college. If it wasn’t prepackaged pasta, I had no idea how to prepare it.
Now, my kitchen is littered with a food processor, two hand held power mixers, a mango slicer, a citrus peeler, various graters, and a large Kitchen-Aid. All of which get regular use. I have a double broiler, a Dutch oven and mixing bowls of every shape and size. I have soy sauce bowls, serving platters and I think there might even be a gravy boat somewhere. In my defense, it was a wedding present, but still, I have one. I also have a place for everything and while my husband cannot decipher the complicated stacking system or shelving process, I know where it all goes. I also know when he’s gotten it out of order. In short, I spend a lot of time in a room that’s only joy used to be the candy bar drawer of my youth.* When we were looking for a house, one of the features I was not willing to budge on was an open kitchen. I wanted to be able to talk to people as I cooked or watch our future kids while I did the dishes.
What started out as a cute hobby to impress my southern boyfriend with the mother who was a great cook, actually turned in to something I usually enjoy doing. Crazy, huh? Lately though, I think I might be going over to the dark side.
Ever since the baby started sleeping at least six hours straight at night, I’ve been planning for my return to work. Not emotionally, but gastronomically. So my latest obsession is manifesting itself in a desire to fill my deep freeze with food. Not the typical items found in the freezer section of the local shopping plaza though. Instead, I find myself pouring through my cookbooks and magazines, looking for large recipes that I can make now, eat a portion of and freeze for later. My crock pot has become my partner in crime. The slow cooker cookbook, my accomplice. The shelf of my basement freezer is stocked with serving size generic plastic ware bearing blue lids. Each blue lid has been labeled with a piece of Scotch tape and a Sharpie. I have spaghetti and meatball soup**, pirate stew, rustic potato soup and several others. The bottom of the cavernous monster shines with macaroni and cheese, pot pies and lasagnas wrapped in disposable foil dishes, labeled with the same Sharpie, but only this time with cooking temperatures and baking durations. They are all dated.
So far I have 21 meals laying in wait. Not 21 servings, but 21 prepared meals, ready to defrost and stick in a pot or go straight into the nourishing warmth of my oven. The idea is that once school starts and the grading starts piling up I won’t resort to old habits and send my husband out to Wendy’s or worse, Long John Silvers. I also won’t paw through my freezer and have to decide if I want the sodium laden TV dinner or the fat encrusted Marie Calendar pot pie***. On those nights I have 60 essays towering over me on the living room table or have been at work for 14 hours to get the newspaper to the printer on time, he will be able to relax and pop in a lasagna instead of calling for carry out.
I’ve been mocked for this endeavor. I probably deserve it. I’ve never been a working mom before though. I know I’m not the first to do it. There’s nothing particularly special about my situation. I also know how long it took me to grade that horrible stack of essays before I had a baby and I don’t want him or my other kids to suffer. So, instead of getting just a little farther in A Prayer for Owen Meany or watching the seven or eight movies I have DVR’d, I find myself heading to the kitchen once again. I’ve found some good casserole recipes. I have to focus on casseroles right now as all the containers fit for soup are currently waiting it out downstairs.
I wonder how many casseroles I can make in the next three and a half weeks? Good thing that freezer only had half a case of ice pops, one Papa Murphy’s pizza and a partially emptied box of egg rolls in it.
*When I first moved in with my dad and step-mom, one of the vegetable drawers was filled with every variety of candy bar known to man. At the time I thought it was what heaven must be like. Now I realize it probably doubled the size of my thighs.
**I know it sounds weird, I was skeptical too, but it is really good soup.
***Don’t misunderstand, I love Ms. Calendar’s pies and most fat encrusted foods for that matter, but each one has nearly 700 calories and more salt than I can shake a stick at.