Chicken cutlets with Velveeta mac and cheese and broccoli; spaghetti, barbecue chicken and mashed potatoes; black beans and chick peas with rice; and curry shrimp, sweet plantains, and white rice.The above is the rotation of dinner dishes I prepare. If I’m feeling extra spontaneous, I’ll fry up some Whiting and serve it with a salad and yellow rice, or make some stuffed shells. But that’s pretty much all of the action my kitchen sees.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy cooking. It’s just that with my schedule, I’ve always leaned towards quick and simple dishes; basic ingredients and prep and cook times that can all be finished while working on homework with Kam. I don’t make the time to get fancy. I keep it mundane and look forward to Fridays when Golden Krust or Dominoes can tantalize our taste buds with something other than my sequence of seasonings and olfactory offerings.
Truth be told, there is nothing I would love more than to be a good ‘ole fashioned Suzy Homemaker. I would delight in having use of a rolling pin, whisk, and that five-piece multi-colored cutlery set I purchased from Ikea a few years back just because it went with my newly painted yellow walls. Like what is a person supposed to do with all of those knives, anyway? I found one at a local discount store that works for everything and I use it just for that: everything! I dust the set off every now and then but the majority of those knives have barely been touched. I want to be covered in flour from head-to-toe. I want the phrase “I made this from scratch” to take on more meaning than just my garlic mashed potatoes (yawn). I want to cease being green with envy whenever my neighbor (who is from the south and has treated me to pecan pies and freshly baked bread on multiple occasions) opens her front door to air out her kitchen. I want to stop relying on Campbell’s and Progresso for hearty soups on chilly nights. Am I the only parent who has never made soup before?? (*hides face in shame*) .
We are three days into the new year, and yes, I guess I am one of those people many find annoying because I say and believe in hackneyed expressions like “New year/New me.” But I can indeed say this with authority because I don’t expect when the clock strikes 12:00AM on January 1st, I will undergo some automatic transformation and become an entirely new person. That’s just foolish. Rather, I have been putting in the work in the time leading up to this. I have been allowing things to ruminate in my head way before this day came around.
To put it plainly, I am tired of the culinary choices I present to Kamryn and I am desperate to try some new things. What better time than the start of a new year? However, leave it to Kam, and she would have chicken cutlets and Velveeta and broccoli every single night. I used to cook a wider variety of dishes but then I went on a 21-day “No Sweets/No Meats” Fast or the Daniel Fast . I then entertained and actually became a vegetarian for almost a year. Once I started conducting my own research though, I soon gave away all meats and all other animal protein that could be found in my kitchen and practically lived at Trader Joe’s. Kam and I would go there sometimes 2 to 3 times a week, lugging brown bag after brown bag up and down the subway steps. Although I now eat meat from time to very distant time, it does not have the same hold on my life it once had. I am easily repulsed by it. But this experience of cleaner eating has greatly limited what I want to prepare in my home.
Although I want to venture away from my comfort-zone (the exact phrase on my vision board is “No Comfort Zones”) when it comes to cooking, I admittedly become overwhelmed at the prospect of going into the unknown, and I settle for sticking to what I know.
Although Kam brags to anyone who would listen that I make the best Velveeta this side of the Atlantic, I need to expose her to other cooking methods, styles, and dishes. She loves to help me in the kitchen but I want to expand her role beyond “Breader of Chicken” and “Stuffer of Shells”. I know that kid has more to offer!
So fast forward to my brilliant idea! I have decided to incorporate one new dish a week, be it, dinner or otherwise! I started small on the first morning of the year by having Kam make her own smoothie. This will be a greater way to not only incorporate more fruits and veggies into our diets, but it will also give her more confidence in the kitchen, an attribute that every child, not just little girls need to possess. She made a strawberry-banana smoothie, tasted my kale, banana, and flaxseed smoothie and opted to not finish the rest of it.
I’m challenging myself to go down the less trodden path and do away with my staple dishes, or just put new twists on old favorites. I must remember, Kam is watching, and tasting. How cool would it be to hear her brag about my homemade oatmeal cookies or Saffron Risotto with Mussels and Bottarga (as stated on page 252 of the Food & Wine cookbook that adorns my fridge that has barely been cracked open. I obviously use it for decorative purposes).
I want cooking to be fun again. I want to see it as more than a chore; just something to be done. I want to do more than mechanically eat. I want to take out the robotic aspect of cooking I have assigned to it. I want to take pride in knowing that my hands, our hands prepared something really enjoybale and fun. I want us to prepare food not just because we need to fill the dinner plates, but because it is an act that will not only bring us closer together, but will ultimately give us more confidence and power.
So I’m just curious, do you also stick to your own rotation of dishes? If so, what are they? Or if you have no problem getting especially creative in the kitchen, please share your adventures!