Posted by: zhak39 | November 17, 2005

Fast Food

“Chris’s project took a long time,” I told Sam as we skimmed the shelves at the grocery store. “We need to do the shopping chop-chop.”

“Chop-chop shop. My favorite,” answers Sam with his usual Eeyore-like delivery.

“We’ll need to make something easy for dinner tonight or we won’t eat until breakfast.”

As we walk through the produce section Sam helps me brainstorm ideas for good dinners. He is very helpful in the grocery store and it primes my pump to have someone bounce around ideas. As well, we talk about balanced meals, what’s on sale, and how base ingredients can be combined in different ways. All of my kids understand that today’s meatballs and sauce may go into tomorrows lasagne and the tail end may show up stuffed in peppers on Saturday.

“Look, they have chicken roasters on sale.”

“Can we have chicken cacciatore tonight?” Sam looks hopeful.

“Well, not tonight. First we roast the chicken. Then we use the bones to make stock and the next day strain and reduce it and then the next day…”

“We have chicken cacciatore! Yea!” Sam finishes. “I’ll pick out the mushrooms”

The meat department almost defeats me. Even though I cook meat dishes for the family every day, it is still difficult to get the creative juices flowing while poring over shrink wrapped slabs of beef and factory stained hunks of pig. And the prices are outrageous. Steven and I have struggled over the last five years as each week the grocery bills have increased. It’s not just the kids are getting older or that they have more guests more often. Food prices have been rising and the sales are not as generous. I heard this morning that nationwide there will be up to a 5% jump again because of energy costs.

“How many dinners do you have?” Sam asks when he catches up with me.

“Let’s see. Roast chicken, Chicken Cacciatore, I guess we can get those smoked pork shoulders–they’re on sale and that will be a real quick and easy dinner.”

Sam doesn’t look thrilled anymore.

“I guess we can have beef stew,” he ventures.

Sam is so sweet. He does not like beef stew–something about the texture and the thickness of the gravy. But he knows that Helen and her best friend Kelsey really like it. It’s a concession for him to suggest it.

“How about marinated beef chunks on the grill with pasta salad?”

“Yea” he says once again.

Stocked up with produce and meat, we head down the first aisle.

“So what are we going to have tonight?” he asks again. (Poor boy must be hungry)

“Well we need something really fast. We could have that pork.”

He at least tries to hide his disappointment. We stop in the aisle and I think.

“I know. This will be really quick. The shrimp was on sale for $3.99. If you peel them for me I’ll make shrimp in a marinara sauce on angel hair pasta and we can buy some croutons and I’ll make you a Ceasar’s Salad.”

For a second, I get the weird feeling that I’m standing naked in a spotlight at the First Baptist Church. A wave of disapproval crashes around me. It’s not from Sam. He’s jumping up and down.

“Angel hair pasta! Shrimp marinara! Yea! Ceasar salad, with anchovies too Mom?”

“Of course,” I say, slightly distracted by the aura of negativity I feel building around me–and I look up. A woman in a nurse’s smock and sensible shoes glares at me between the Hamburger Helper Cheesy Favorites and the Stroganoff-in-a-Bag. She drops some boxed dinner into her basket and hurries down the aisle.

In that little moment I felt her dissatisfaction flung in my direction but not directed at me. I recognized her as a person who felt she had not had a break in far too long. Who was carrying too many responsibilities, working too many hours for too few rewards. I looked at Sam skipping down the aisle in search of croutons and realize how fortunate I am. It’s not that I don’t have responsibilities or time issues or personal difficulties–we all do. I feel so fortunate that despite the pace and pressure of my life those external forces can’t blindside me. Within the cycles and pulling tides I am mindful of the meaningfulness in my life, the wonderful people and even, fast food.


  1. So glad you are back….your writing makes me feel connected to you.

  2. You always have been and always will be…

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