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A New Culinary Low

Since we’re still in the midst of
remodeling our new kitchen, the family is one tiny step above
dining out for every meal. We’ve finally got a refrigerator
so we’re not limited to the aptly-named mini fridge
we’ve been borrowing, but everything else is still
make-shift: no dishes have been unpacked since cabinets are still
unfinished, so we live with paper plates and plastic cutlery; and
while we have a microwave, it’s on the second floor and we
eat on the first floor, so we’re constantly running up and
down the stairs during a meal to “cook”.

When we first arrived we were doing every meal out, but as the
weeks go on I’ve been trying to save some money and inject
some health back into our diet. Which means I’m buying
rotisserie-cooked chicken from the supermarket along with a few
pints of those over-salted sides like potato salad or baked beans.
Or I’ll snatch up a couple frozen lasagnas and slave away
over a hot microwave as they cook before divvying them up onto our
paper plates.

I made pretty much all of Maddie’s
baby food – it was cheaper, and I had the time. But here
it’s simply not possible, so Cora hasn’t had homemade
food since about a week before we moved when I ran out of the last
of the frozen cubes I’d whipped up. I’m astounded at
how many jars I have to keep on hand, and how quickly I go through
them, either because Cora eats it all or because I have to throw
out what she doesn’t finish. I’m not passing judgment
on people who use all pre-made baby food, but I sure do miss the
ease and cheapness of the stuff I make myself.

And I never thought I’d say this, but I’m getting kind
of sick of burgers and pizza. And it’s clear Maddie is as
well; for the past several days she’s been begging for
macaroni and cheese, and yesterday I finally relented and made it
for her. You’d think it’d be no big deal – mac
‘n cheese is probably only slightly harder to make than a
bowl of cereal, hold the milk. But when you’ve only got a
microwave and one microwave-safe bowl, it becomes a whole new

First up, I’ve never made microwave mac ‘n cheese.
It’s not that I’m a mac ‘n cheese snob- I dearly
love that blue box. But I’ve always made the kind you boil
because frankly I’m cheap, and I won’t pay extra just
for the privilege of not having to use the stove. The instructions
seemed pretty straightforward, though, so I picked up a box without
much more thought.

Here’s what was hard for me: first, the box contained five
single-serving packets. Which meant I couldn’t make one big
pot – I had to make one stupid bowl at a time. And I had to
make all five servings because their idea of a serving was only
slightly larger than the size I’d make for, say, a
two-year-old. On a hunger strike.

Second, since I had to make one bowl at a time, the whole meal took
over half an hour to prepare, with Maddie calling upstairs,
“Is it ready yet?” every five minutes while I’d
be frantically stirring in the one tablespoon(ish- haven’t
unpacked my measuring stuff) of butter and yelling, “Not
quite yet!” The time got dragged out a bit more than it would
have if I’d had more than one bowl, but that poor bowl got so
dang hot I had to give it a cool-off period between each round.

So that’s how I spent my evening last night – on my
knees, frantically stirring orange powder into a small bowl with a
child-size plastic fork after boiling the macaroni in the microwave
for three minutes, five times in a row. Me, the girl who makes the
fancy mac ‘n cheese with the buttered bread crumbs on top,
hand-grated sharp cheddar cheese, and that dash of cumin in the

I comfort myself with the knowledge that my cooking has nowhere to
go but up.


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