Hanging Up My Apron
After turning 70 Gail Grant found cooking a chore. Here’s how meal kits, poached eggs on toast and guilty-pleasure dinners have kept her happily fed.
So, here’s the thing. For me, cooking – or to be more specific, planning meals and food shopping – has become drudgery.
My relationship with the kitchen has always been shaky, but somewhere around my 70th birthday any pleasure, inspiration or joy I may have previously felt in the kitchen went missing. Feeding myself became tedious and boring.
And this puts me in a bit of a bind.
Friends who share my attitude have partners who enthusiastically and, in most cases, proficiently stepped into the breach. As a single, I don’t have that option. And because eating is an integral part of living, I really must come up with solutions to this dilemma.
In the past, I’ve been a seasonal cooker, not a recipe user. I bought whatever looked fresh and nutritious, and figured out how to prepare it when I got home. So my meals developed during the food shopping trip, rather than from cookbooks. But with pandemic precautions in place, food shopping has become a gruelling chore. No inspiration there.
Neighbours who recently moved into a retirement residence say the number 1 reason for selling their condo and relocating was the availability of three meals a day in the onsite dining room.
But uprooting seems a bit drastic. Surely there are other options.
My daughter suggested I try the boxes of ready-to-cook meals that are delivered to the doorstep. What a great idea! A menu popped up on my computer once a week, I made my selections and on the specified day a courier dropped off a box of fresh ingredients, all prepped, proportioned and ready for the pan, complete with colourful, step-by-step recipe cards.
Most meals took 20 to 30 minutes to prepare, vegetarian and gluten-free options were available, and the cost was automatically charged to my credit card. Simplicity itself.
This worked well for a while, until it occurred to me that I was turning down social invitations in an attempt to get through the food that was piling up in the fridge. Not ideal in a world in which one in every nine people goes hungry.
For some seniors, Meals on Wheels is an option. Christine Sevigny, executive director of Caledon Meals on Wheels, which serves Caledon, as well as Orangeville and the surrounding area, says the volunteer-driven organization delivered 21,571 meals last year, enabling 272 seniors to remain in their homes.
To qualify, a person must be 65 or older, or recovering from surgery, or have a health condition that warrants food delivery. The cost of meals is subsidized by the provincial health ministry. A hot meal delivered to your door will currently set you back $7.50.
Caledon MOW also touches the lives of nearly 800 seniors in Caledon and the Orangeville area through a number of wellness activities, including the popular “Wee” Care Grocery program, which is providing grocery baskets to seniors during the Covid outbreak. “We’re happy to do our best to make our seniors’ lives easier,” says Christine.
In a pinch, I still find it easy to pick up a barbecued chicken from the supermarket or perhaps one of the home-cooked frozen offerings from any of our fine local catering or specialty food shops – or even drive-through takeout.
But a step up from bringing home a burger and fries is rediscovering the local fine dining establishments that are currently offering pickup menus. Add a linen tablecloth, some candles, chilled bottles of wine and a few friends, and the evening becomes a “dining in” event, without the hassle of pots and pans to clean up. What a bonus. And of course, we all know the benefits of sharing a meal with others are incalculable.
Yet I have been known to dine on popcorn. Or perhaps a thrown-together salad with bits and pieces found in the fridge, or even a poached egg on toast. I figure the Canada Food Guide, upgraded or not, has had its way with me for long enough. I feel justified in occasionally submitting to guilty pleasures.
And there is a certain freedom in needing to please only ourselves, without a lot of fuss and muss, while giving in to strange cravings every now and then. We’ve earned the privilege.
When Covid-19 turned the world on its head, some wag suggested that at the end of the turmoil there would be two types of survivors: those who have become outstanding cooks, and those who have developed a drinking problem. I certainly won’t be the former.