I'm standing at my kitchen counter, very present to the sun warming the backs of my knees as I chop my way through an onion. I'm not so present to my first-grader, reading quietly aloud a room and a half away. This evening's reading assignment is a book titled Les rayons X; I should probably tell her to speak up, but frankly, X-rays just aren't intriguing enough to learn about in my rusty second language. Her last non-fiction pick was better: real life dragons of the world. The only one of the six varieties of dragons I knew about were Komodos, and even then I learned something new. When threatened, a Komodo dragon will empty its stomach contents to better outrun its predator. It's a rather unpleasant parallel to dumping sandbags to lighten the load, but survival tactics have a tendency to bring out the nasty. I suppose it's better to lose your lunch and live to eat another than to die digesting. Somewhere, some frat house is probably planning a Komodo run: drink 'til you puke, then run a mile. Whoever staggers to the finish line first, wins. I think I'll pass.
The meal I'm preparing is not lunch, it's supper, and a heavy one at that. The festal season brings out the bacon in me, so I'm making Crispy Mac 'n Cheese, an old fatty favourite from my mother-in-law's recipe file from when casseroles were in vogue and calorie counting was not. I don't think she makes it any more. The recipe calls for a can of cream of celery soup, freshly crisped and crumble bacon, and three cups of shredded cheddar cheese. It's delicious, but it's time consuming to prepare, and the end result is high in salt and low on protein. I don't have any onion salt and don't want to be bothered with thawing only 5 strips of bacon, so I'm frying fresh onions in bacon fat saved from an earlier Paschal breakfast and tossing in real bacon bits from the bag in my fridge. I boil the pasta while I fry so I can reuse the pot to make the sauce. The dishwasher only holds so much cookware.
I'm always baffled that casseroles have maintained their "easy meal" status. Far from the days before tupperware, where a mushroom sauce could save last night's broccoli and pasta from back-of-the-fridge desiccation, they've evolved into a multi-step process, starting with a grocery basket's worth of specific fresh ingredients and ending in a disastrous kitchen mess. Sauces, starch, vegetable, meat, all cooked in their own containers, assembled in yet another vessel, and shoved in the oven just long enough for you to stack all those prep dishes and realize you should have made a salad. Gone is the thrift, the simplicity, and the last-minute creativity. I bet whoever wrote that recipe had leftover shelleroni and bacon and was fresh out of onions. If she'd had tuna instead, I doubt she'd bother to write it down. After all, last-minute creativity hardly guarantees genius. I'm sure many a surprise casserole was horrible dud, choked down for the sake of starving children in Africa, as if dinner mistakes could really be shipped for famine relief across the Atlantic. Waste not want not could learn a thing or two from the Komodo.
The things I think about in the kitchen. I blame the sun.
Linking up with Heather at the Extraordinary Ordinary. Just write.