Today, I’m going to rant. You’ve been warned.
I have been cooking literally since I was five years old. I started with a kids’ cookbook, which my mother bought for me. It had absolutely gross recipes in it, but I was so proud to make them, and my mom dutifully ate whatever ugly concoction I placed before her. Things quickly got better. I was baking alone by age 8, and if there was a recipe involved, I could pretty much make everything. My ability to estimate spice requirements, freehand measure, and predict recipe outcomes followed, and I was making my own main dish and dessert recipes in high school.
When I dropped out of college (brilliant, ilkaisha) and joined the Coast Guard, the logical choice for jobs seemed to be to become a cook. I’m not entirely sure if I’d do it the same way again. I quickly realized that cooks are probably the hardest-working rate on a ship: 16-hour days were normal, and it was an infrequent occurrence that someone appreciated your efforts. Anyway, at the time, it seemed awesome. I didn’t really learn a whole lot in the way of cooking basics and theory when I went to their training school, but I did learn how to cook in bulk portions. I had a hard time relearning to cook normal amounts of food. Leftovers were a definite thing for a while there.
Anyway, I have this whole lifetime of experience with food. With eating. With preparing various ethnic foods from around the world. With shopping and selecting the ingredients I use. I had a long period of food “snob”ishness. For instance, I wouldn’t stoop to buy certain products. When I lived alone, I had organic foods and purchased the best olive oils and balsamic vinegars for myself. I’d like to pretend that I didn’t judge people that bought certain items, but I’m sure that I did. Not that I thought any less of the people buying different grocery items, but I certainly thought less of their eating habits. That would never be me.
I find my previous attitude completely repulsive now, though. Because, in the way that people who claim that all unemployed people are just too lazy to get a job eventually find themselves without a job, I am now exactly in the opposite place looking back on my former self. We are, for the most part, a single-income family. I’m going to school, and we’re taking out extra student loans to support my academic endeavor as it will replace my part-time freelance writing; however, for all intents and purposes, we are living off of the income of the Murse. Things I said I’d never do — like buy Kool-Aid (which costs us about $0.35 per gallon because we dilute it in half as opposed to the $3.50 per gallon juice [also cut in half] costs), use 73-27 beef, eat canned spaghetti sauce, have a pantry filled with generic labels — keep food in our mouths. I’d love to have no GMOs and all organic produce. I’d love to pick the leanest meat cuts and make my own ice cream so there’s no preservatives in it.
But I can’t afford to. And I’m not accepting your guilt trip about it, either. Yes, I know that there are horrible things in processed foods, and I agree that my children should probably not eat them. If you want to run an experiment to see how long you can feed your family on just your morality, be my guest, but I’m not going to make my kids go hungry just because I would rather buy three organic lemons than five boxes of macaroni and cheese. I garden for whatever fresh produce I am lucky to harvest, and I do what I can with what we have. When I am finished with my bachelor’s degree and go back to work, maybe things will change in my kitchen. I mean, I really hope that they will, honestly. But unless you’re prepared to feed us, don’t judge my grocery options: It makes you a jerk.
Yes. I was a jerk, too. I’m sorry. 😦