Cooking for Two Sucks
It must seem like I’m always pontificating on the various merits of life without kids, despite the fact that I’m supposed to be examining the pros AND cons. So here’s a bone for those of you wishing I’d present a more balanced viewpoint: the Childfree culinary life kind of blows sometimes. Particularly if you’re as cheap, health conscious and untalented in the kitchen as I am.
Every two months or so, like clockwork, I tell Drew that I’m quitting the world of cooking. This retirement isn’t perhaps the dramatic lifestyle change you might think. My time behind the stove consists largely of reheating various frozen Trader Joe’s stir frys. If I’m feeling optimistic about not ruining it, I’ll add some extra veggies in there. If I’ve been drinking, I’ll make an ill-advised trip to the spice cabinet to “jazz things up”. But the true horror begins when I step off the Trader Joe’s grid entirely and attempt to whip up something from scratch. And those are the times I really regret having so much free time to experiment and only two of us to consume the evidence, for the following reasons:
1) Leftovers that Just Won’t Die
The great thing about making a giant crappy lasagna in a house full of teenagers is that your crappy lasagna is gone in less than 24 hours. Not so in the Childfree home. After sampling a jicima slaw at a party last month, I attempted to recreate it. In addition to forgetting the jicama, I made a variety of creative additions (tofu, for one) and wound up with a mountain of coleslaw, the size of which would have made Kilimanjaro quiver. It was atrocious. And it was dinner for five nights in a row, sometimes lunch.
The Great Non-Jicama Slaw Incident of 2012 was about as bad as it gets, but even eating a (theoretically, in my case) delicious meal five nights in a row would get tiresome. Yes, we could invite friends over. But let’s be honest – only family could be subjected to such potential gastronomic horrors without danger of ending your relationship.
2) If Variety is the Spice of Life, the Childfree House Needs a Pinch More
Strolling the produce aisle is usually where the lack-of-variety blues hits home. If I’m picking out fruit for me and Drew, we’re eating a pineapple or a cantaloupe for a week straight, or we’re racing against the clock to polish off a pound of strawberries before they go bad. We start asking dangerous questions like, “what do you think about blueberry soup?” With a house full of kids, you can grab a whole rainbow of fruits and eat something different every day, knowing that everyone else is doing their part to whittle through the rest of the stack. Assuming, of course, these fictitious kids would actually eat fruit instead of subsisting on Red Bull and circus peanuts like their peers.
The candy aisle is another killer for me. I grew up in the house of a chocolate lover and there was always a solid selection on hand. But instead of the drawer of Reese’s peanut butter cups and 100 Grands and other fabulous treats, Drew and I keep a sad little bag of Milky Ways in the freezer. The FREEZER!
Incidentally, my mother is still in denial that we’ve left the nest with respect to the candy drawer. I asked her to snap a photo of her current supply:
As you can see, this represents roughly 19,700 calories, but she sent it with a note that she’s (and I quote) “running a little low” here.
3) Cost per Person is Rivaling Restaurant Prices
My spice rack usage rates run anywhere from 2% to 4%. Every recipe I want to test drive seems to require no less than eleven dried herbs I don’t currently own. And once I’ve spent $19 on marjoram, fennel pollen and truffle salt, I never want to lay eyes on them again after tasting whatever culinary terror they’ve joined forces to create. They’ll be added to the 3,700 other un-alphabetized spices I have to rifle through before determining I do not own star anise for those braised duck legs.
And it’s not just spices. I’ll buy the half gallon of buttermilk for the third-of-a-cup I need in my muffins and watch the rest of it rot while wondering if I could sneak it into a bowl of Drew’s shredded wheat without his noticing. There’s just not enough things two people can make and eat to use up all the ingredients we buy before they go bad. I realize that food costs in general go up astronomically with the addition of kids, but somehow when the cost-per-person goes down, it feels better.
4) Too Many Naughty Treats, Not Enough Sticky Fingers to Snap Them Up
The one thing I do well in the kitchen, with any regularity, is bake. Here are three recipes you should never make in a Childfree home, unless you’re planning to take them to a party, because you will each gain approximately 57 lbs per recipe:
- Creamy Lime Ricotta Tart in a Gingersnap Crust
- Chocolate Truffle Tart with Whipped Vanilla Mascarpone Topping
- Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Cinnamon Cream
I love these desserts, passionately. But I only get to make them when we’re on our way to an event because Drew and I cannot be trusted not to settle down with two forks and an episode of 30 Rock and call it a dinner. I can’t take them into the office because my mother’s only words of warning as I entered the workforce were that I’d damage my career prospects if I became known as the Lady Who Bakes in the office. And besides – there’s just something a little depressing about setting a cheesecake out at 8:00 am and watching your co-workers devour it by 8:07. (You all know what I’m talking about.)
Boo Hoo, Poor Me
I understand that I’m in the minority in complaining about this. Many of my Childfree counterparts probably love that chicken nuggets aren’t the 5th food group in their home, or that they have the freedom of experimenting with flavors that kids would spit back onto their plates. But sometimes freedom is a dangerous thing. Like anytime I’m passing through the kitchen, thinking I’ve got some extra time, frozen chicken breasts, margarita mix and a bright idea on my hands.
I’ll let you all know when I’ve finally caved on cooking altogether and joined the Whole Foods buffet revolution like all the other sane Childfree people.