WND – More than one standard deviation from the norm

November 18, 2010

Generally speaking I can tell how my week is going by how early in the week I make my menu plan, and therefore my grocery shopping list. The earlier in the week the list gets made, the worse the week is. Last week I didn’t get around to making my grocery shopping list until Friday evening because that was the first time I had time to breathe. This week I had my grocery list done by Monday afternoon, but that owes more to the fact that next week is Thanksgiving and I’ve had that menu plan down since early October than it does to the quality of my week thus far. This particular grocery shopping list is typed, itemized, has been double checked and includes a timetable for Thanksgiving. It’s not the most fussy list I’ve ever made, but it’s possibly in the running for the top 10.

Sadly, once again, the media informs me that in this regard I am out of step with the mainstream. I am reliably, and repeatedly, informed by ads that I am not supposed to be this enthused about cooking and menu planning. There is, in particular, one ad for some frozen food product that especially irks me.

The ad runs something like this:

“Food Myth #____: chopping and stirring is soothing at the end of the day.

[dramatic crashing cymbals and buzzer sounds]
[images of someone throwing out their knives and fresh food in favor of a frozen meal they can microwave in minutes]

Solution: X brand of frozen meals.”

Here’s the thing though, I actually do find chopping and sautéing and stirring soothing. Sometimes it’s the only thing I do in my day that works the way I want it to. I understand that I might skew slightly off norm in this regard, but it’s not like I’m Martha Stewart either. Trust me, I understand that some nights you just don’t have time to cook, or you’re just tired and the thought of doing the dishes at the end of the night is exhausting. I freely admit that we order Chinese/sushi so consistently on the weekends that the Chinese delivery guy has actually stopped and offered me a ride if he sees me walking home late at night*.

I think what annoys me so much about the ad is that it feels very proscriptive. It posits a world in which cooking is by definition onerous and overly time consuming. It doesn’t have to be. I’m not even talking about the fry an egg and toast some bread scenario where you can have changed into pajamas, fed the cat, cooked and eaten dinner and be cleaning up within 20 minutes of having walked in the front door. Last Thursday I went home and made a pumpkin-turkey stew that took 20 minutes to throw together, and then simmered for 40 minutes while I checked my email, cuddled the cat and watched Jeopardy. The only thing that would have made that more relaxing is a glass of wine.

Alternatively, the entire culture of the slow cooker is tailor made for people who don’t like cooking and/or don’t have time to cook when they get home. You dump a lot of things in a pot in the morning (or even the night before and stash it in your fridge) and then on your way out the door in the morning you flip a switch. And lo and behold, when you come home you have stew, or pot roast, or chili, or barbequed chicken. Add salad and some bread and that’s an easy dinner that involved next to no effort and as a bonus contains ingredients you can pronounce and probably can identify in a line up.

Although, I suppose in fairness to the ad, its purpose is to sell more frozen food products so it’s not really in their best interests to suggest a more creative and healthy solution to the problem of people who don’t like to cook. It still irritates me though.

* No we don’t order that much take out, it’s just that when we do it’s almost always from the same restaurant.

Dinner Last Week

Beef Stew with Lemons & Figs

Beef Stew with Lemon & Figs
I think I made the day of the two guys at the Whole Foods meat counter when I wandered up to ask if they had any stew beef that contained, you know, actual fat, as opposed to the viciously trimmed and de-marbled extra lean stew beef that was on offer in the meat case. They looked entirely too excited and ever so slightly dumbfounded that a real live actual girl was asking for something with more fat, for me not to be amused and mildly disturved. Normally I have to walk into a comic store and ask for a Batman graphic novel to garner that kind of a reaction.

Recipe previously given: Lamb Stew & a Small Soap Box

Dinner This Week

Ham Steaks
Roasted Fig & Fingerling Potatoes
Apple Sauce

Ham Steaks
Wilson Farms sells these fully cooked, lightly smoked ham steaks. I assume one can get them elsewhere, but Wilson Farms is where I get mine. I dust them with some pepper, cinnamon, allspice and brown sugar and throw them in a sauté pan or grill pan for 5-8 minutes a side until they’re heated through and have picked up some nice sear marks.

Roasted Fig & Fingerling Potatoes
I over compensated on the figs this time around and actually had leftover figs after we’d scarfed all the potatoes and garlic. I also hadn’t quite processed that I’d used figs as the flavor accent for Dinner two weeks running. What can I say, I really like figs. Rest assured, having already made next week’s dinner plan, I can say with absolute certainty that figs will not be in evidence.

Recipe previously given: Summer Lovin’ Happened So Fast

Apple Sauce
If you like your apple sauce smooth rather than chunky, just put it on the stove over a low heat and then wander out of your kitchen to eat dinner and forget that you’ve started apple sauce cooking. Come back 45 minutes later to put dishes in the sink and realize that the apple sauce is merrily simmering away. It’s lovely how forgiving apple sauce is of absent mindedness.

Recipe previously given: Bangers-n-Mash



  1. Hah! I have railed against that very same ad! I DO find chopping and cooking to be soothing at the end of the day, thank you very much.

    Love your tale of the Whole Foods meat counter. I love to defy expectations that way, and I consider it almost a duty to be seen enjoying real food in public as a women.

    • That is to say, as a woman, singular. 🙂

    • I think the thing I find most schizophrenic about the premise of the ad is that there are two entire networks (plus countless PBS shows) devoted to the ways in which I am supposed to find cooking fun and a creative outlet. I kind of want to ask, ‘so which is it, onerous, or the most fun you can have with your clothes on?’ Pick one, because the constant vacillations between the two are making me dizzy.

      The obvious answer being, of course, it’s both. Some people enjoy cooking and some people don’t, but somehow the media equation never comes off as being that balanced.

  2. […] Recipe (?) previously given:  More Than One Standard Deviation From the Norm […]

  3. […] Recipe (?) previously given: More Than One Standard Deviation From the Norm […]

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