My 83-year-old mother-in-law is visiting this week, and it’s been a real lesson in how folks used to do things versus how they do today. She has talked a lot about what it was like growing up in rural Arkansas as tenant farmers in the 20s, 30s, and early 1940s. Some of her brothers and sisters weren’t able to finish high school or even 8th grade because her father needed them in the fields. They ate a lot of beans and cornbread. And she didn’t know you could buy a loaf of bread already made until she was in her late teens.
Several times since she got here, she’s commented, “If you keep feeding me like this, I may never leave.” You see, after being raised on home-cooked meals, which we have most nights, she got out of that habit after my husband’s father died several years ago. And even more recently, splitting time between my two sisters-in-law’s homes, she has become accustomed to “supper from a bag.” When I asked her what she meant, she replied, “Oh, you know, McDonald’s or something. I’m going to have to re-learn how to eat out of a bag when I go back there.”
I reminded her that we live a dozen miles or more from the nearest fast food, and that by the time I go pick something up, it’s not fast anymore. Our local groceries don’t carry those pre-roasted little chickens nor the pick-up-and-bake pizzas. We can’t get anything delivered here–except Lou Malnati’s (and, no, they aren’t paying me; we just splurge on their pizza packages about once a year when they go on sale.) Our really good meals are also a lot cheaper than take-out. Tonight, for example, we had wild salmon simply grilled with a butter-dill sauce, corn on the cob, and an old-fashioned squash casserole (for my mother-in-law), all for much less than a bag of burgers would have cost. It also took me about the time to make everything from scratch that it would have to get the infamous, unhealthy bag. And I got to stay here and chat with my mother-in-law and husband and drink a little wine while I cooked.
Planning ahead for cooking at home takes a little time when you first start doing it, but the longer you do it, the easier it gets. I try to think of creative meals while I’m walking, showering, whatever. I bought a little blackboard at a craft store and put magnetic strips on the back, so I can keep it on my fridge. I take it down and write out menus based on what we have in the garden and the freezer and fridge. It makes it easy for my husband at a glance to see what I’ve got planned for my cooking nights, and I don’t lose track of good ideas or food that we need to eat.
If you eat out of the bag more often than not, why? Have you considered making more home-cooked meals? (I’ll bet if you’re reading this blog, you have!)
If you cook most of your meals at home, what inspires you? How do you manage it? Do you have a simple planning system?
Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.