Like a cluster of daffodils unanimously trumpeting in the rise of spring, a neighborhood doesn't seem to be alive until the sun comes out. Since we moved into our house in October until just a few days ago, the only clues that anyone lived in these buildings were a few passing cars and garbage cans that mysteriously appeared and disappeared on Wednesdays. This week, with the perfect weather and serendipidously timed spring break, we've been able to see our close inhabitants in full force.
We've been no exception, taking full advantage of the front porch and backyard seating. And I've been exploring the (couple) hidden corners of Hubbard on my bright pink cruiser bike. WITH Hello Kitty bell. Oh yes, I command the adoration of 5-year-old girls and sideways stares of everyone else.
Pedaling back around the corner last night, I was almost stopped in my tracks by a sight I hadn't beheld in ten years - a Schwan's truck! It's frozen home food delivery, meaning they don't make the rounds in apartment complexes and dorm buildings. No, this has been a service only homeownership could re-realize.
So many of my favorite snacks came crystallized in those bags, which were savored every once and a while as a "treat" while I was growing up, since none of them were cheap. The soft pretzel sticks stuffed with melty cheddar cheese, the breakfast pizzas with country gravy sauce, and s'mores ice cream bars! Without trying to look too freakishly giddy, I flagged the smiling driver down and requested a catalog.
"Are you familiar with Schwan's?" He asked, noting my address in his notepad for future solicitation.
OMG YEAH!!! IT'S LIKE THE BEST EVER!!!
"Yes, I have used your services in the past," I said in my grown-up voice.
He offered to come back either later in the evening, or in two weeks. This was not the kind of thing I could rush. Time needed to be taken. Selections had to be circled. Lists had to be made. I chose the latter, and went back inside to unleash the giddiness.
I let Matt do a once-through on the catalog before I did, since he was Schwan's-deprived as a child. But I was ready with ballpoint pen in hand as soon as he had finished a casual glance. First item circled - Italian-Style Meatballs. Easy spaghetti on a worknight! Vegetable blends, indulgent snacks, exotic juice from concentrate. So many options to make options easy.
"Want to look at what I circled?" I offered, handing him back the bible.
First scrutiny - "Meatballs? We don't need those. Your meatballs taste better!" "Pizza? I like your pizza. We're not getting that." "Chicken Parmigiana? You make that!!"
Well... yeah. Of course I can make that. I can make anything. (Except for Pad Thai). That doesn't mean I always WANT to.
And then, it hit me. I was cursed with the double-edged sword of people liking my cooking.
It's a wonderful feeling on weekends, holidays and oddly inspired weeknights. But after a particularly irritating day at work in the middle of the week, I don't want to go home and measure spices, make a million dirty dishes and have to clean up after myself. I like that couch too, damn it! I want to effortlessly have food come to me. I want to open up my fridge, take out a single container, wait ten minutes and be done with it. Not all the time; even good convenience food gets old fast. But having it around in the freezer bank, waiting for that day that I really want to cash in my savings for a vacation.
But now, I've uped the ante. It's not as good. And to someone who doesn't chip in the labor, it seems just as easy. Why the hell would we buy pricey primavera when you chop a few veggies, do something in a pan, boil something and BAM! it's done and tastes way better?
I haven't always had this issue. I didn't just come fresh out of my college dorm room knowing how to cook (or how to do laundry, for that matter). It's just because I love it so crazy-much that I've tried and failed and tried again to get better. I remember a time when Matt couldn't stand my sad, soggy-middle pizza. He'd have brought in the whole Swan-crested truck before suffering that meal again! But I just HAD to keep watching Food Network, reading cookbooks and getting my hands on my mom's secret perfect crust recipe. In climbing the culinary rungs, I created a monster.
Tonight? We both got home late. Picked up pizza at a local restaurant. The verdict? "It's good," Matt shrugged, "but I would have liked yours better."
Thank you, and damn you!! FIE!