Perhaps my title should have been, Busy and Incompetent. I heard, years ago, that as technology evolved, we would all have more free time, to pursue hobbies and studies and things like that. It seems though, that as we acquire more and more technology, we have less and less time for ourselves. I know that, as I spend more time, with more blogs, my reading has decreased. One of the parts of life to take the greatest hit from busy-ness, seems to be cooking and food preparation. People have not been taught, or don’t remember, or simply don’t care to, take the time and effort to prepare food from scratch.
My son was amazed in a store the other day, to encounter, pre-cooked bacon, hence, the title of this blog. How lazy and incompetent have people become, that they can’t even fry bacon? There’s more than that to the equation. Folks don’t want to get grease-spatter burns, or messy stoves, or indelible marks on their clothes. There’s even the question of what to do with the rendered fat when you’re done. Personally, I keep a clean soup can in the fridge and pour the grease into that, and let it cool. Then we use some for things like frying French toast or, as we did tonight, create a roux, and add a can of beef broth to make “stone” gravy for perogies. That can of broth is short-cut cooking for us. I can almost hear the younger crowd. “Create a roux? What the Hell’s a roux? Make gravy? Screw that, open a can.” We “used to” make perogies from scratch, but it’s a four-hour process. We’re becoming like others, now we buy them ready-made in boxes.
For many people, everything, including food, has to be fast and easy. Hamburger Helper has a series of ads where they urge you to cut up and add veggies and spices to “personalize” the basic pot of slop. A lot of folks don’t even know how to cut stuff up, or what spices are, although HH assists them by showing a bottle of Tabasco Sauce. Studies show that one out of every three meals in America is consumed outside the home, and that doesn’t include delivered stuff, like pizza or Chinese. Think of that folks, breakfast, lunch and dinner, an average of one of those meals every day, for every person, is purchased. You guys are dining out way too much.
One of the females in my blog-circle was in awe of her neighbor, who made fresh cookies. “Even if I had the time, I wouldn’t know how.” One of the reasons I’m overweight, is that, all three of the adults in this house, know how to cook. My mother taught me, and my wife taught the son. We all have our specialties. I make stuff like homemade pizza, pasta and chili. I also serve as a great prep-chef and bus-boy. I will peel and grate and chop and get out spices and milk, etc. Then the wife comes over and assembles something and leaves a mess, and I clean it all up, just in time to enjoy Black Forest Cake, or a stew from Kenya. I get a little OCD about cleaning up. Sometimes I put stuff away, that hasn’t been used yet.
When she was raising our kids, and babysitting for the busy working mothers of the neighborhood, the wife watched TV shows like The Galloping Gourmet, Julia Child or Wok with Yan. We have almost 20 cookbooks, including a three-ring binder with computer printed pages of preparation and cooking instructions, and recipes from around the world. That’s why I said that the neighbor probably enjoyed, what to us, was a simple meal.
We continue to purchase things like mustard, relish, ketchup and HP Sauce by the gallon, at Costco. I wash out the empty squeeze bottle from the fridge and fill it again and again, from the big container. I can purchase the big container for the cost of two or three of those handy-dandy little ones and get 10 or 12 refills. All it takes is some time, energy and patience, things many people in today’s busy world don’t have. It even cuts down on garbage and recycling. Then we take the money we saved and drive north to the Mennonite farmers market and buy top-grade fresh produce, to make some more yummy waist-stretchers.
Come Christmas-time, we make about a hundred dozen bite-size cookies of about ten varieties, and one or two soft, moist, yummy Christmas cakes. We give away the lion’s share to our chiropractor, his wife and kids, and now a couple of new husbands. They have been exceptionally nice to us over thirty years. They have established a Christmas-morning ritual breakfast of tea and our cookies and cake, as they open presents. They still respond by giving us far more as gifts than we feel is justified. This past Christmas they bought us our membership to Costco. My ever-anchored son pointed out to my wife that, if they went to the Mennonite market and purchased the amount we give them, the cost would be well over $200, and the quality would be nowhere as good.
The highlight of the presentation, especially for the now-adult children, is individually hand decorated/iced sugar cookies. Bells and wreaths and stars, hand-painted with different colored icing, with various-shaped decorations added. Then the artistic wife, and especially daughter, use the colored icing to “paint” sugar-cookie men and women to resemble each of them. They put in suits, jogging outfits, and for each of the girls and their new husband, a wedding gown and tux. All of them get their name added in dark icing.
When we deliver the largesse, it’s like watching It’s A Wonderful Life, in real life. These “kids” are now all into their twenties, but the eyes sparkle and the smiles glow. They are just SO glad to receive their hand-made, personalized gift. It’s a Hell of a lot better than that “personalized” Hamburger Helper. It’s such a shame that so much of the good, old ways has been left behind by so many of today’s busy, stressed citizens.