The Beggars’ Banquet: You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’

Maybe you’re stressed. Maybe you’re working long hours and evenings are the only time you can put up your feet. Maybe you’re unemployed and feeling listless and concerned about your food budget. Maybe you’ve just made one too many meals and you just don’t care anymore. Whatever the case, you’re burned out on cooking.

And you know what? I’m not here to give you handy recipes to get you back in the swing of things. Because I can totally relate. I’m tired of paging through cook books, dreaming up something that isn’t the same mediocre vegetarian corn dog to pop in the oven. A few months ago, we moved into a home that, although double our previous (studio) apartment’s square footage, has a kitchen about half the size. There’s no counter space, one of the burners on the stove won’t light, and because I’m unemployed, I can’t splurge on the kind of organizational bins we need to keep anything organized. In short, my kitchen is making me anxious and I don’t like spending time in it.

Which, you know, is really sad, actually. Because I love(d) to cook. Once upon a time, I felt like cooking was a gift I could give my fledgling little family when I didn’t see much else I had to give: a square meal that nourished the body and pleased the tongue was something I felt proud of. And originality – trying new things, not allowing our dining habits to fall into rut and routine – was part of the gift, and the adventure for me, as a cook.

But lately, I’ve been depressed – in the space, in my unemployment, in the necessity of routine just to get through days laden by a lot of responsibility. And cooking is no longer the joy it once was; our dining habits suffer as a result. (I don’t want to admit how many times Chinese takeout or pizza delivery has stood in for a meal with, you know, food groups. Like, even in the last week, the number is a bit daunting.) So… what to do?

Well, I don’t quite know yet. But I have a few suspicions of what will eventually get me out of my rut. First, I’ll have to get sick of the crap food. Second, I’ll have to spend some time daydreaming. What meals would make me feel spoiled? What about decadent? What meals would make me feel cleansed and glowing? What meals are comforting? What are my favorite dishes from childhood? Holidays? Trying to associate positive emotions with meals and their preparation can help to stop me feeling so gloomy about cooking in general. Third, I think it’s time I re-think my kitchen. There are some things I can’t change about it at all (we are renting, after all), and others that will have to wait to change, due to budget constraints. But I can certainly purge items we don’t use, reorganize the ones we do into systems that work better, and try to make the whole kitchen navigation thing a greater joy, in general.

And finally, I suppose, I can just start doing it again. Stop viewing it as a chore and start viewing it as a dance whose steps I haven’t followed in a while; a tune I haven’t sung in some time; a ritual that’s overdue for practice.

By Meghan Young Krogh

Meghan had a number of quality writing mentors over the course of her education, which just goes to show that you can't blame the teacher for the way the student turns out. Team Oxford Comma represent.

4 replies on “The Beggars’ Banquet: You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’”

You know what helps in this situation? Lentils!! (I am kidding- I just had to seize the opportunity to be the first person to make a lentil joke). On a more serious note, I really really hear you on this. A couple of years ago I was doing my masters in the southern US, was on a super small stipend in a town devoid of inexpensive vegetarian options all while myself and my also vegetarian (now) ex-boyfriend and I were super ridonkulously homesick (as in, there were multiple times a week in which one of us would turn to the other and say “aggh I hate it here!”). We ate a ton of rice and beans, in multiple combos and a lot of Kraft Mac and Cheese… things were boring, we were grumpy. I think for us what helped us get out of it, was figuring out what was super cheap in our area. Once we figured out (as a Canadian and a Northerner it took awhile) that there was a large hispanic population in our area, we found places to by ingredients for mexican food really cheap… so we would buy a new sauce to try or something whenever we grocery shopped. It was still a really depressing time, and a shitty year, but despite that, our food was eventually exciting.

I totally feel you on this one. If you take out the vegetarian element, this could be about me.

When we get into a depressed take-out rut there are two things that get us out. 1) We get so desperate for “real” food that we start cooking in self defense, or 2) Spaghetti night. Spaghetti night is stupid easy and it tastes just homemade enough to remind me of what we’re missing, and being able to eat without the guilt of having paid for someone else to cook makes it all the more sweet.

After my parents divorced, my brother and I discovered that my dad was not the greatest cook in the world. He has since improved, but in those early days, we ate a lot of what I’ve since learned is college food. There was mac’n’cheese (Kraft of course) and Hot Dogs’n’Beans (which had two ingredients, guess what they are). But my favorites meals where the nights when my dad actually seemed to give up. He’d buy a pear and an apple, a hunk of cheese, a box of Ritz crackers, and some salami. Then we’d pile it all on a cutting board and gather on the floor of the living room, snacking our way through a movie. The meal required minimal effort (we cut the food as we ate it) but maximum family togetherness. Sometimes simple is the way to go

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