As I mentioned earlier, I am now a lone woman (and adult, for that matter) in my parents' house. They have a former sister missionary who is getting married in Australia this month and decided that was a wonderful excuse to go and visit a new continent. I encouraged them to go when they were planning several months ago, knowing that living with six other people in your house can get a little trying and we would probably like each other better with some time off.
They left Thursday afternoon. I had made a dinner menu for the week, but by the time five o'clock rolled around I didn't really feel like cooking dinner. So the children and I ate cold cereal. While spooning my way through a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch I realized a sad truth about myself: I have no self-discipline. Sure, I can turn out a home-cooked dinner every day by six o-clock when I know that my husband (or parents) are expecting something tasty and nutritious. But when it's just me and the children? Even pancakes are a bit too much work. For some reason I just can't face cooking dinner when I'm the one who cooks it, feeds it to the children, cleans it up, and then puts everyone to bed. It's okay when I get to look forward to some help partway through, but I just can't stand the thought of doing it all myself for three solid weeks.
I used to think I liked to cook, and I guess I did when it was a hobby. When Brandon and I were engaged we thought nothing of spending three hours cooking dinner together. It was fun. It was tasty. It was cheap. And it was just a background for what we really enjoyed: talking. But now cooking dinner is a job. It's a job I do almost every day, and it's one of my least favorite jobs. I have about fifteen or twenty recipes that I cook because they passed the test for taking less than an hour, using ingredients my housekeeper can get at any bazaar or store, and being healthy. Which doesn't really make for exciting food. It makes for healthy, cheap, filling food, but not exciting food.
When I thought of cooking these same menus every day (without even Friday off! Because there's no date night when your one and only date is six thousand miles and ten time zones away), I just couldn't stand the thought. But when I thought of eating cold cereal every day, I couldn't stand that either. Because even if I'm lazy that doesn't mean I don't have standards. Then started looking up delivery in the area. But that didn't appeal either. Like I said I do have standards - for nutrition as well as taste - and restaurant take-out for three solid weeks gets a little old after about half of one week. Next I looked into those we-chop-all-the-ingredients-and-send-you-recipes services. But I the prices were a deal-breaker. They were about the same as delivery, about thirty-five dollars a meal for the cheapest services, and most of the stuff didn't look like food that my children would be interested in.
And then I remembered the standby of every busy mom: frozen food. When I was a child, frozen food meant tater tots, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, lasagnas, and chicken pot pie (okay, chicken pot pie is still awesome). Thumbs up for ease, thumbs down for nutrition. And taste. Because fish sticks and microwaved peas do not a complete or delicious meal make. But. Prepared foods have come a long way, especially if you're willing to spend a few more dollars for the good stuff. Because two words: Trader Joe's.
So the next day I armed myself and my credit card for super-duper-lazy-eight-months'-pregnant-mom-with-five-children-all-by-herself-for-three-weeks indulgence. And if you don't think that's a real thing, you've never done a medevac. After Target (Target! Oh how I love thee), I headed for Costco (you too!).
After filling up on apples and mandarins and pears (oh non-rock hard crunchy Asian pears!) and bananas (so cheap!) and pineapple and strawberries (in January!) - my children would eat just fruit if I let them - I headed to the refrigerator section. But not before stopping by the bakery (!!) for still warm rosemary parmesan bread (the likes of which you cannot find anywhere in Central Asia) and coffee cake (yup, I'm so lazy I don't even want to make breakfast).
The first thing in the cart was a vat of chicken noodle soup. I practically swooned thinking of just putting that baby in the microwave, slicing up delicious bread not baked by me, and having dinner just like that. Next went tortilla soup, stuffed grape leaves (we haven't eaten those in years because they take so. much. time.), two (two!) different kinds of quiche, asparagus (yup. never seen that in Dushanbe, ever), pre-washed baby greens and green beans, hummus, pita chips, spanakopita, rotisserie chicken (okay, so we have those, but they weigh about half what American chickens do), spinach ravioli, stir fry vegetables, potstickers, chicken tikka masala (I can make that, buy why make it when you can buy it?), naan bread, and my old standby favorite that it still great after twenty years, chicken pot pie.
I practically danced (okay, if the cart wasn't weighing in at about two hundred pounds by then I would have) my way through the aisles thinking of the hours of time I had just bought (literally - thanks, Brandon!!) myself and how much cooking I wasn't going to be doing for the next three weeks. And the dishes too, because did I mention that my parents' dishwasher broke and the replacement wasn't coming for a week and a half?
When the checker finished ringing up everything and the total was a hundred dollars more than my generous estimates, I barely even flinched because hey, I had at least two weeks' worth of dinners that I didn't have to cook. And even more than that, food that actually tasted good. I wanted to give America a big, huge, wet kiss for having people who pay good money for delicious, convenient food.
And so that I how I completely lost my principles - thrift, nutrition, homemaking - at Costco in one short morning. Brandon, my wallet, and my pride are probably happy that I don't live in the land of easy convenience on a permanent basis. But for now, I am very very happy to be here. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a quiche to put in the oven.