Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Getting Our Act Together

Paul did something drastic last weekend, with my permission: he cleaned out the refrigerator.  It was one of the sweetest things he’s ever done for us.

So Organized!

The carnage wasn’t too bad.  The produce drawer was surprisingly fresh, which made me proud.  There were many almost-empty containers, which didn’t make me proud.  Why is it so hard to just finish something and be done with it?  This is a problem I have in life, not just the kitchen.

But a well-organized fridge is a thing of beauty.  I admit that I’ve been admiring it every time I open the door.  My fridge is usually in such a state of chaos that opening it reminds me how much I really need to clean it out.  But not this week!  This week, we are enjoying fridge bliss.

Living together is inspiring new levels of food organization for both of us.  Paul suggested we start using Wunderlist to organize our grocery shopping, and it’s made a HUGE difference for us.  I now make our weekly menu options in Wunderlist, and of course, once I’ve made the menu, I make our shopping list.  Shopping for a week of groceries has become almost an in-and-out trip to HEB, which is amazing.  More time cooking, less time shopping!

I’ve always been kinda flaky about planning a week’s worth of dinners and then sticking to my list.  With no one to hold me accountable and just one person to feed, I was a free spirit in the kitchen, shopping for a few days at a time and cooking if and when I felt like it.  I usually ate at home, but some nights it was leftovers and other times it was a dinner that took me two hours to prepare.  I loved those days, but I’m liking the newfound structure that cooking for two has given me.

Our weekly plan thus far has been as follows: Paul cooks twice a week, I cook three to four times a week, we go out once a week, and we fill in the gaps with teamwork.  These days I am (more or less) in the lab Monday to Friday, so I’m not home for lunch.  I take dinner leftovers to work; Paul eats leftovers at home for his lunch or he makes a quinoa pilaf.  For breakfast, we do smoothies, oatmeal, and/or Grape-Nuts, adding fruit, nuts, peanut butter, ground flaxseed, or other goodies as we feel like it.

So far, I’m really happy with our kitchen routine, as long as “routine” is not synonymous with “boring.”  Spontaneity is valuable to me as a cook.  I like the creativity and thrift that cooking off the cuff inspires in me.  I’m kinda bored if I know what to expect all the time.  This trait of mine may sound crazy, like the anti-purpose of having a menu plan.  Other people sky-dive or ride a Harley; I like to cook without recipes.

Well, sort of.  What I really like to do is riff off of recipes, which is what I did last night.  I started reading Delancey by our own Molly Wizenberg.  (As an author who got her start in the blogging world, I’ll always consider Molly one of our own.)  Molly’s writing has changed a lot since she published her first book, A Homemade Life, and I think it’s for the better.  A Homemade Life was a memoir written while wearing the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, the story of a privileged childhood and, to be quite honest, not much in the way of significant life experience or struggle.  Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed A Homemade Life.  But it wasn’t a deep book.

Delancey, on the other hand, is a grittier story laced with the vertigo we feel when we know that failure is an imminent possibility.  Having survived my own painful failures in recent history (the entire year of 2012 comes to mind), Delancey feels more like real life to me.  84 pages into it, it’s not a pretty story.  But always, there’s a glimmer of hope woven through the narrative.  That’s how it is in real life, outside the pages of a memoir.  We carry on because we sense the hope and possibility beyond today’s long hours and tomorrow’s struggle.  We carry on because we believe.

I wasn’t going to write about Delancey at all in this space because initially, I was lukewarm about the book idea.  Back when Molly first started blogging about the construction of the restaurant, her posts didn’t hold my attention.  But now, inside my own romantic partnership, trying to get a small business off the ground, slightly terrified on a regular basis, Delancey feels like a friend saying, “I’ve been there too.  I wanted to get off that ride, but oh, the end!  The end is worth the fear.”

I’m not at the end of my wild ride, with Paul and our newly shared home, or with my tutoring business.  But at least I have a tasty pasta recipe to sustain me, and I’ll share that with you soon, along with more thoughts on Delancey.

PS  More praise for Molly and Delancey over at Jess’s blog: here and here.  Enjoy!

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