Food Food Food Food Food

Food food food food food ... it's on my brain. The need to prepare and serve it in a variety of ways feels suddenly more constant, more pressing, more always. And more difficult. It can't be that there are more meals to make. It must be that there's less time in which to make them.

Yesterday, I spent the better part of the afternoon converting two baskets of market tomatoes to 14 jars and 7 freezer bags of the processed variety. (Plus one tomato from our front-yard garden: Albus's! He insisted it go into the sauce so that he could imagine he was eating "his" tomato all winter). As a guide, I used last year's blog entry on the subject of canning tomatoes. (Note: I forgot to mention, in that entry, that after placing the skinned tomato pieces into the jars, you fill the jars with hot water to a half-inch head). The work wasn't hard to do, but it was time-consuming, and in the end felt anti-climactic as this won't come close to filling our pantry. If I have the heart for it, I'll repeat the exercise again next weekend. (It would be easier to do, and I recognize this, if there weren't a thousand interruptions. I suspect it might even be something I'd enjoy doing: simple and productive handwork while the mind wanders. But right now, it feels like a chore among others.)
It's Sunday, so I'm trying out my crockpot for the first time in years; that way, if the meal flops, we can order last-minute takeout and it won't cramp our no-room-for-error weekday style. Are there some foods that actually taste better cooked in a crockpot? My experience, though limited, has been discouraging, so I would appreciate hearing some hurrahs for the crockpot. For tonight's meal, I made up a recipe loosely based on a bunch of recipes in Fix It and Forget It, a cookbook which seems to rely heavily upon cans of cream of mushroom soup. No cans in my cooking. In fact, that may be why the crockpot has seemed so unappealing: because I'm used to eating food cooked up from scratch before mealtime, using the freshest ingredients. Can a crockpot really compete?

Here's this week's menu, at a glance:

Sunday: Crockpot brown rice casserole with hamburger, spinach, cheese and tomatoes. Roasted veggies on the side.

Monday: Chicken roasted (steamed?) in crockpot with root veggies. Buttered noodles on the side.

Tuesday: Mac and cheese with ham in crockpot. No time for sides.

Wednesday: BBQ at meet-the-teacher night.

Thursday: Beans or lentils, possibly in crockpot. Possibly not.

Friday: Leftovers. Plus some fresh items picked up from Nina's buying club.

Of course, in addition to supper, there's also lunch, and tonight I will be making THREE lunches to send for school tomorrow. Fooey is thrilled. But I am suffering school-lunch anxiety: her teacher has requested that I split the lunch into two well-marked portions (the children's school has two nutrition breaks per day, but the older children simply choose what they want to eat out of whatever I send). Fooey's teacher recommends that the first portion of lunch be the more substantial: sandwich. The second should be more snack-ish: fruit, veg. I've almost paralyzed my thinking on this subject with over-complication.

Ah, cup of coffee. That's what I'm enjoying right now. Soon it will be lunchtime ... scrambled egg and bean burritos. It never ends. Well, it never ends right now. And I'll miss it when it does. But perhaps that will be because I've romanticized these days and forgotten how little time there was to sit and think. I miss sitting and thinking. There's much to be said for it, even if what it produces is invisible to the eye.

Random bits. Yesterday, CJ took my hand and led me to the rocking chair in our backyard. "Sit" he said, and I sat. He wanted an audience for his sandbox play. Or maybe he just wanted his mother to sit and think ...

The children have been practicing piano, ten minutes apiece, in a the mornings before school. I love this more than I seem capable of expressing. It's a bit like love. There's no way to describe love without diminishing it. Hearing them play (or attempt to play) these simple songs on the piano is both ordinary and deeply affecting. It's comforting. It's beautiful. It returns me to my own childhood. It is such a wonderful way to start our day.

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