Having been totally spoilt by my wife for over sixty years and seldom involved in food preparation, I had a ‘soft’ introduction to those chores about five years ago when my wife Dorothy started to lose the ability to cope with household necessities and I began the painful journey of being bread-winner, bread-baker and meal-maker; the kitchen was a new and an almost scary territory for me!
At first, it was almost easy, we could work together. Dorothy had amassed lots of cookery books and all the basic, even seldom-used, ingredients, were there in the kitchen pantry cupboards. (Just realised that many are still there, unused – I really must have a clean-out!). In those early days Dorothy could guide me a little but, all too soon, it was obviously too late for her to teach me! In fact, it became increasingly important to physically keep her out of the kitchen because, as she struggled to cope with hot stove tops and the identity of ingredients she was always at my elbow! For safety sake, I resorted to quoting the adage, “Too many cooks spoil the broth!” and ultimately managed to convince her it was time for me to learn to work solo in the kitchen.
You guessed it! I was awkward and unskilled and didn’t/don’t like cooking one little bit! As a result, I soon learned to supplement my pathetic attempts with store-bought or home-delivered meals. And that worked really well while Dorothy was still at home with me; the delivered serving size packs were always right for two people but far too big for just me. After Dorothy went into care it was only me to feed, so I heated the whole pack, ate half and put the rest in the fridge to be re-heated for the next day. But that meant having the same main meal two days in a row, so I often extended that gap to three days and began to create some basic different meals in-between! Like: eggs cooked in about five different ways, sausages with three (frozen) veggies, or even the odd chop. And, once a month, a restaurant meal shared with twenty or so neighbours who live in our little cluster at my retirement village. Every few weeks, I buy a tray of eight sausages and cling-wrap them in bundles of two and freeze. Later, when they’re thawed, I cook both and have one tonight with veggies and the other cold, sliced in a sandwich for lunch or reheated for dinner the next day. There’s always tomato sauce and a couple of brown onions in my pantry, too, as they add a nice touch to many of my meals.
In the freezer there’s a small variety of frozen vegetables. In the pantry there’s always two or three fresh potatoes and, in the frig a pack of small tomatoes and sometimes a piece of pumpkin. For lunch in warmer months I buy the smallest pack of salad greens I can find and use those with some tasty cheese and sliced cold meat, like ham or corned beef. All through the year I always have apples, oranges and bananas on hand, sometimes even an avocado or a pear. Breakfast is always a half a glass of pure orange juice, a mix of muesli and mixed-grains cereal served with milk and Yoghurt followed by a slice of toast with 50-50 Vegemite and marmalade. I bake a loaf of bread (in a bread maker) about once week, sliced when cooled and half the loaf frozen. I love my bread, and it saves a lot of money, but once in a while I buy a nice little crusty loaf or some bread rolls for a change!
Desserts -now you’re talking! Sometimes a can of mixed fruit with ice-cream, or sometimes just ice-cream with a topping sauce (out of a bottle!). Yoghurt alone or with a piece of cut-up fruit, and my favourite – creamed rice or, an indulgence, Crème Brule when it’s on special! No wonder I am putting on weight!
Somehow, I manage to feed myself without much preplanning or even much preparation, and to eat reasonably healthy tucker. But I must say it’s a pure delight, indeed heavenly, when I have the occasional meal out, especially with my children in their homes! They all cook superbly, but then so do all my friends, and I am so fortunate to put my legs under their tables every so often. While this forced isolation persists, I can only dream of putting my legs under someone else’s table!
Sure, we eat to live and love, but I love to eat – out!