Where Has All The Cooking Gone?

A cursory glance at history and culture makes it look as though we have gone from emulating the character Betty Crocker (yup, she wasn’t a real gal) to standing helpless as the microwave timer counts down the seconds until our vegetables steam themselves in the bag we bought them.

Somewhere, cooking got away from us.  And, never is this truth more apparent than when I’m in the grocery store – of all places – and in the check out line.  I’ve become the Yeti, rarely spotted, many doubtful of their existence, and yet, once seen, becomes a baffling fascination from whom no one can look away.  Some feel compelled to point, perhaps warning others.  It may be the overflowing nature of my cart that first catches their eye, or the amount of posterior torque needed for me to steer around corners and then angle myself squarely into the checkout line. The other shoppers veer clear of my line in wide berths or brave souls bat their eyelashes in hopes that I will let them go ahead of me, which I do – hey –  Yetis have feelings too.

And as I stand, waiting for my turn, pretending not to notice the curious or even astonished faces of those scanning the curvy girth of my cart, I too begin to take note of what the gal in the line next to me is going to buy, and the guy in front of me (who is thankful that he’s not the guy behind me holding two oranges and a package of toilet paper – I have to stop letting people go ahead of me at some point), and everyone else I can eyeball.  I see mini baskets that aren’t even full and full sized carts carting toddlers and vanilla wafers.  I see the lady to my left with a bag of bulk almonds and package of deli meat (Adkins?) and then that guy in the line next to me with a tube of toothpaste.  And I wonder….what do these people eat?  What the heck is for dinner?

As my turn approaches I lean into the cart and squeak it forward.  Glancing up at the customer ahead of me who is leaving and giving me a last glance and then offering the cashier an apologetic look, I too respond with apologetic eyes.  Don’t judge.  It’s like someone you hate smiling at you.  You automatically smile back and think, “darn it!“.

And then the unloading begins.  One third of the produce section that once was on display, a variety of proteins from the butcher’s counter, different cheeses (some I’m sure I pronounce interestingly), a stock of canned goods, a myriad of gluten free pastas, and so on and so forth, unloading and balancing until, at last, I’m face to face with the one person who will certainly understand that a grocery store is the place to buy food.  However…after the required question, “Did you find everything okay” and the non required smirk that tags it ,  I inevitably get one of two questions…without fail.  First:  “Big family huh?”  “Nope.”  I answer.  Second:  “Buying for the month or something?”  “No. Just what we need to cook for the week.”  I counter sheepishly.

Sheesh!  Don’t these people know that when you make a stuffed pork chop you need things like pork chops.  And you need gluten free bread, celery, spices, a bit of apple, onions, butter, and broth  for the stuffing.  And then of course, what to have with it?  Doesn’t she understand we will need to make sautéed green beans with pearl onions cranberries for cranberry relish, and potatoes for mashers?  And then what about dessert and what about after school snacks?  Don’t you people eat!?

My children, now teens, used to say in their little kiddo lingo, “Mom, you’re a good cooker.”  So I say, cookers unite.  Gluten free, glutenated, all of us cookers unite.  Stand strong in the check out line.  When you receive stares from curious onlookers who think the grocery store is a place to window shop, stand tall.  And, when the cashier who is destined to ask why you have so many groceries, smile confidently and answer her this, “Because I cook.”.

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