For many years, every Sunday morning I have taken a piece of paper and written the word "Meals" in the top right hand corner of the sheet. Then I start making my list of things we will eat for the following seven days. Usually, on the left hand side of the paper I start the list of things we need at the store. It usually reads something like, "milk, apples, bananas, yogurt, raisins, snacky things…"
However, since moving here the list has almost ceased to exist. It has been replaced by any number of lists on scraps of paper that subsequently collect in the bottom of my purse. These lists might say, "milk, culantro, ajo paste, perijíl" or "oranges, berengena, vainitas." Usually they are the result of me realizing in the morning that either Vilma or I are going to cook something and we are missing a handful of the specific ingredients.
Then yesterday happened. I knew we had to go shopping. Since I started work today there would be no last minute running to the store, no debating what to cook for dinner until 3:00 in the afternoon and no on-again, off-again veggie chopping breaks to draw the dinner preparations out over the course of the day. I went to the printer and pulled out a clean white sheet. I found a good pen. I wrote "meals" in the top right hand corner.
Then, I sat I looked at the page. There was so much pressure. I felt the draw of the "meals" heading, outlined by a neat rectangle and its history. My mind slipped right back to the old employed me - the me who loves to cook, but had stopped finding the time for meals that take more than 20 minutes.
I used to have a notebook in which I would write down our grocery lists every week. I rarely pulled out the old pages so they just stayed there. I was flipping through it one day last year and discovered that every week we bought exactly the same thing. And the meals varied between only about ten different things - fewer if you count veggie burgers with mushrooms and Swiss and veggie burgers with guacamole and pepper jack as the same essential meal.
I am happy to be back at work and so thrilled about this new endeavor. On day one, what does this mean for our meals, for the list? Well, the list looks like this: couscous, black bean tacos, pizza, pasta and (since no veggie burgers here) grilled cheese and salad. I'm glad I got that Eggplant Parmesan in while I had the chance. And, admittedly, it was great to see our oldest son delight in an old staple at dinner tonight - couscous with roasted almonds, feta and cranberries over a bed of greens. I thought it would feel disappointing, but we always ate those meals because they're tasty, healthy and easy. It was a quick, delicious dinner. Final verdict? Perfect. I feel in a weird way like this means we - the old two-working-parents we - have finally arrived. Like somehow this meal system reflects the real us, or something. Maybe it just symbolizes me as not being just EFM, but a more complete identity. And anyway, now I have a whole office to make cookies for…