Sunday, January 1, 2012
A Chicken is Not Just A Chicken
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Do you know that saying, "a rose is a rose is a rose?" (I'm hoping you do, as so often these days I find that people are not acquainted with the familiar maxims and sayings I grew up with. Another path of time-honored wisdom lost to the void of mind-stunting television and texting, I'm afraid. Pick up a book, please!) Anyway, in the same way, the familiar white meat of America is often seen as: a chicken is a chicken is a chicken. A simple, predictable, no-brainer protein for our plates. Alas, this is not and has never been true for me.
In all my years of conversing with other families, I find there are three main categories of family "cooks":
1) A heavy reliance upon out-to-eat meals fills the bulk of their diet.
2) Pre-packaged, prepared, pre-mixed - dump a jar of salsa, de-boned chicken parts, a can of beans, a bag of frozen corn, a packet of taco seasoning, and some water in the crockpot; set on low for the day; dish it up that night and sprinkle each serving from a bag of shredded cheese and you're good to go.
3) Routine, routine, routine is the name of the game. These meals are more likely to be made with fresher ingredients, but the holy trinity is usually going to be spaghetti, chili, and some sort of chicken dish. A methodical repetition of steady repeats keeps things running smooth and steady.
There is another note-worthy minority out there which I should mention before coming to myself. Some folks are born with an innate sense of confidence in the kitchen, a superior gift of culinary skill and command. Like those people who seem to have a compass embedded in their brains and can speak of north, south, east, and west as though is is clearly obvious, these savants possess tantalizing abilities that beat in natural rhythm with the proverbial heart of a home. I salivate with envy.
The class to which I belong is also unique, but not so gifted. We strongly disapprove of fast food, detest anything of the Zatarain/Hamburger Helper ilk, and abhor routine at our table (we struggle with this in other areas of our lives as well, much to our detriment.) Families with this type of cook in the kitchen are the recipients of quite fine and varied meals; indeed when dining out, menu choices are made based on whether we could make this ourselves, and better, at home. Confidence and pride is hard won, but I must confess is only as strong as your last meal. Our appetite for a mouth-watering and healthy dinner is robust, but is eclipsed by our desire for uncharted regions and tastes. Variety is our slave-master. Each day we wake wondering what we will make for dinner. Trip(s) to the grocery store(s) are equally spontaneous and subject to un-premeditation. (I just had to make up that word because is is how I live!) It is for this reason that I say 'a chicken is not a chicken is not a chicken.' I drive myself crazy with this inability to conform. I look at a chicken, or a roast, or a potato as though I'd never seen one before. And while this has presented my family with distinctive and unique meals that might be served from anywhere in the world, I'm honestly getting a bit wearied. Indeed, I am rather maddening myself.
However, my habits are deeply ingrained. So, what to do?
As I have been attempting to create plans and purpose for the coming year, I long for a marriage of new-found consistency and some retention of my free-spirited ways in the kitchen. So, I have devised a strategy that will channel my predilection for diversity by bringing it under weekly submission. On Sunday, starting tonight, I will plan two weeks worth of dinners. I will schedule one trip during that time-frame in which to drop by both Trader Joe's and the grocery store that sells local goods, and two afternoon outings (one a week) to my local grocery stores. Sometime tomorrow I will also schedule two weeks of breakfasts. The next Sunday I will review my progress and make any tweaks and adjustments as needed. And round and round we will go.... fingers crossed!
In this way, I am not tied to a broken record of roast chicken unless I want to be and will still be able to cook up anything from a Chinese stir-fry to Mexican albondigas, but I am hoping to experience the freedom that comes with the willing assent to a reliable pattern. It has taken my dear husband and I twenty-six years to arrive at such a state of wedded bliss (wink and a kiss!) Tiffs and spats, disagreements and debates, unmet needs and unrealistic expectations, unexpected understandings and eye-opening insights - all par for the course. I embark on this path with the appreciation of experience; this may well be a lengthy process of conformity but I enter with rosy hopes and, dare I say it?
A good deal of pluck.
Linked with Domestically Divine, Time Warp Wife, Works For Me Wednesdays, Simple Lives Thursday, and I LOVE Fridays