Friday, January 29, 2010

Musings on Convenience Food

With our kitchen renovation going on, I am a bit strapped for cooking vessels. No stove, no sink, no ovens. I do have a microwave in the garage, and I kept out Butcher Son’s electric fry pan, the rice cooker, the crockpot and the toaster. But with no good way to wash dishes other than in a bathroom sink or tub, and with me disinclined to wash dishes at all during this time, I’m trying to limit the use of these appliances.

While many people have offered up their kitchens to me, it’s kind of nice to have a reprieve from cooking, not to mention that all my foodstuff is packed away in the shed, unreachable to even take to someone’s home. (But I do appreciate all the invites people!) I might change my mind in a week or so if the progress of the kitchen is slower than anticipated, but I have faith and I am hoping to make my next full meal on my new Bluestar range.

On Sunday Mr. B and I walked the aisles of Safeway looking for food that could be cooked easily. I am amazed at the amount of microwavable dehydrated and frozen foods—none of which looked appealing but I was willing to give a few a try. Hate to make snap judgments without meeting a food first and giving it a fair shake taste. What I realized during this somewhat futile exercise is that I am really a food snob. Not a highbrow, I-need-caviar kind of gal. I am just partial to fresh food; simple ingredients that I combine myself. I like meals with ingredients that I can pronounce and that do not prolong the shelf life of a product for one year.

The first few days I found myself just making toast or cold cereal for breakfast. Easy, no real cleanup but the knife or spoon. I’m not a huge carb fan, so I knew this would have to change. I’ve picked up sandwiches at Whole Foods, but that can get expensive. We sprung for pizza one day for the work crew, but I can only eat pizza a few times a year. Dinner was the worst. We tried a Harris Ranch beef stew that I found in the meat section of the supermarket. Now I love Harris Ranch meat and we often stop at their restaurant when traveling I-5—so much better than fast food. But their prepared stew was awful. There is no other way to put it. It tasted like the plastic pouch had leeched flavor into the stew. I could barely choke it down. We also tried several frozen dinners. A bit more palatable, but barely. We splurged on sushi Wednesday night and that was great, but at $60 for the 4 of us, not exactly economical, especially when we need to be saving money for the remodel.

I still have some kind of dehydrated soba noodle thing to try, but I’m thinking I need to be desperately hungry and exhausted to go that route. I have several cans of Progresso soups, which aren’t bad in a pinch and which we will definitely try, but I was really in need of fresh food, good food, not really expensive food. Leaving my one-on-one training at the Apple store, it hit me as I glanced across the street and saw…Trader Joes.

I have been a fan of TJs since it first opened in SoCal. I remember my brother and I going to that first store with its tiny parking lot. We now have 4 TJ stores within a 15-mile radius. I favor their nuts, pastas, and cheeses, but I also buy their fresh juices, the Fage yogurt that I love, breads, teas, salsa, and the occasional convenience food. I grabbed my recyclable bags and a cart and started to troll the aisles. I found cut up fresh fruit and yogurt for breakfast, sliced cheese and salami for lunch, falafal-hummus-pita fixings, prepared green salads complete with dressing. I even bought their mushroom tortellini with asparagus, pulled BBQ chicken, and chicken enchiladas to try for dinner. Everything looked fresh, had a good ingredient list, and seemed palatable. We shall see.

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