Foodie Tuesday: Desperate Times Call for Inventive Cookery (or None!)

In the center of the vortex that is our schedule at the moment, I have a kitchen piled high with boxes, sorting spots for deciding what of the cooking tools and gadgets, dishes and dietary dabs, to Keep-Give-Sell-Trash, and cleaning supplies for tidying up when (and if) I finally make order amid the chaos again. In the center of that mess, I have rather little space, time, or inclination to be the simplest of pretend-chefs. So it’s imperative that I get my mise-en-mess just organized enough to see that we eat, no matter what.

What to do, what to do, cried Chicken Little!

First: don’t panic. I am not troubled with that far worse enemy of not having access to food aplenty. After that, it’s not so complicated. Remember to keep all of this chaos and craziness—of combining a busy work schedule with travel (out of state, followed by a jaunt overseas), while also being in the maze of selling the house and moving to a 50% smaller apartment—in perspective. We have a home (two, for a while, soon). We have real, daily work to do that is fulfilling as much as it is challenging and time-consuming. We have exciting trips to take and wonderful things to do and friends to spend time with while on these travels. And we have food, lots of food.

Prep is the enemy these days, of course. I love the leisurely approach of knowing two weeks in advance that company’s coming, planning the menu over a few dreamy days, shopping for ingredients, setting up my mise en place during work breaks in the day or two preceding the event, and even making up dishes in advance to be chilled properly or ready for flame, if they’re to be served hot. But that is the one ingredient I lack right now: leisure. Time is in too high demand these days for any ridiculously languid approach to fixing and eating meals. I look to the quick fix in times of, well, little time.

A good opportunity to think about quick foods, as opposed to Fast Food. One will satisfy and keep me on track, and the other will drain my wallet and energy and health, all while only feigning to save me time, because of course I would have to leave the field of my current endeavors for longer just to drive to a fast food joint and back than I do to make a swift pass at the refrigerator and/or microwave on fly-by breaks from the packing. Nothing wrong with taking a fast food break, as indeed, we will do tonight because the chaos in the house is at such a peak there’s no real place to sit down and eat, never mind whether I can rustle up any edibles when the counters, the space in front of the fridge, the cooktop, the pans and pots and utensils, the microwave, and pretty much everything else cooking or food related is virtually inaccessible. But by tomorrow I hope to have cleared a path again, enough so I can rely on my old standby cures for lack of time.

Photo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beef_bourguignon

Desperation Dining 1: if there’s a one-dish meal lying in wait in the freezer, yay! Something like a bowl of quickly microwaved beef stew Bourguignon-style is practical, hearty, and will stay with me through more busyness before the day is through.

Photo: Desperation Dining 2

Desperation Dining 2: a big glass of water and a couple of protein bars, especially homemade ones like these chocolate-peanut butter ones and citrus ones, can keep me moving while the clock’s ticking.

Photo: Desperation Dining 3

Desperation Dining 3: a bit of a sugar rush is sometimes just what I need to continue working for a while, so why not a piece of fabulous fruit to hold me over until it’s *actual* mealtime. Add a little cheese, and it feels like it’s nearly a meal. Add a bowl of popcorn *and* some cheese, and it’s Sunday evening supper! In my house, anyway.

Photo: Desperation Dining 4

Desperation Dining 4: My eternal friend the Egg is a constant companion in times of high-speed living, whether it’s scrambled or fried or whipped into a lemony hot mousse for microwaving—or it’s going, raw, into my coconut milk smoothies, because I’m a fiend for eggnogs of all sorts. If you tell me to Go Suck Eggs, I will take it as a mandate, not an insult.

Photo: Desperation Dining 5

Desperation Dining 5: there are times, I will confess, when the desperation becomes closer to the real thing, and I am so tired of pedaling faster, ever faster, that what I not only crave but need is to stop, sit down on any bare spot of furniture or floor or dirt, and slurp at a drink. It may be the aforementioned water, it might be juice, and on special occasions, it could be that what’s required is something equally special to perk me back into a semblance of good cheer and energy. A fine lemon verbena drink with mint-leaf ice cubes, chilled cucumber slices and candied mandarin orange segments, with or without alcohol, is a good way to forget for a moment or ten that life is continuing to race onward, with or without *me*.