Now that it’s summertime, my teens are forced to fend for themselves when it comes to meals. Each day, they are responsible for conjuring up something edible for both breakfast and lunch. I buy the grocery supplies every Sunday hoping that they will get creative and cook something for themselves. This is futile positive thinking on my part, because most of the time, they grab a handful of crackers and some Oreos and call that lunch. This is not healthy eating, people, this is lazy eating. The conversation usually goes like this:
Me: “Ok, I’m headed to the grocery store. What do you want to eat this week for lunches?”
Amanda, 16: “Huh? Blah, I dunno.”
Me: “How about trying out a new recipe for chicken wraps?”
Me: “How about a homemade pizza? Maybe a chef salad?”
Me: “So what the heck are you gonna eat this week, then?”
So I buy the supplies, and every week, they go uneaten. Every. Single. Week. Why am I wasting money on this stuff? Most teenagers gain a lot of weight during the summer. Well, my girls are just the opposite. Skinnier. Probably because I’m not hanging around cooking grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese, and then forcing them to eat it. This might be a good thing, but I still feel guilty about it.
The other day, I noticed that Amanda is looking noticeably smaller (but NOT eating-disorder-small, that’s not what I mean). I said, “Good Lord, are you eating during the day?” You can always count on her sister to tattle on her, “No, she never eats anything. She gets up at noon, and then she’s too lazy to cook anything.” Well, no wonder. What’s that like? Apparently, Laziness trumps Hunger when you’re a teen. I vaguely remember being that way, like, a hundred years ago. Damn, too bad that didn’t last. Now my entire life revolves around the thrill of my next meal. How gross is that?
I got to thinking about how cooking is an important Life Skill. You know, one of those skills that, once you learn it, you won’t forget it, and it will serve you well in the future. Kind of like learning to ride a bicycle. Sure you might mortally wound yourself a few times, and there’s a lot of failure involved, and you could possibly burn your house down, but there’s also a lot of pride when you finally get it right. But unlike a Bicycle Fail, you can eat your mistakes. Or not. Especially if it tastes like nuclear waste. Then, maybe not so much.
Life Skills are good to have, particularly when you get to college and you are supposed to be learning to take care of yourself. It’s a particularly handy skill to have during those times when you don’t think you’ll survive one more All-Night Coffee and Take-Out Pizza study session. You’d better know how to cook yourself something healthy, like Tofu Soy Bean Sprout Quiche, so that you won’t go into Toxic Junk Food Shock.
So, for the rest of this summer, I’ve decided to start Mom’s School of Cooking. This will probably NOT end well, since both of my daughters HATE all forms of learning during the summer (“We’re resting our brains”). But’s let give it a shot, anyway. I like to live dangerously.
Let’s start with some basic terms and definitions for the lazy teen brain:
The Oven: A futuristic metal cabinet that mysteriously turns raw stuff into crispy cooked, or possibly burnt, stuff. At the top of the oven are these little complex dials with numerical markings, usually from 100 to 500, that will probably never make any sense to you whatsoever. How do you know whether to use “200” or “350”? You don’t. I could explain it to you, but you won’t be listening, so I won’t bother. I’m too tired anyway. The only thing you need to know here is the OFF switch. Never, ever leave the house unless that thing is on OFF. If it’s not, just don’t leave the house. Ever. But if you must, just take the oven with you. OK, never mind. Just ignore the oven, and stick to the microwave.
The Microwave: A small magical electronic rectangle on the kitchen counter that magically makes frozen foods edible. And cold foods hot! For example, you stick a hot dog weenie in there, set it for 30 minutes, walk back to your room to blow dry your bangs and painstakingly apply mascara, and when you come back and open the microwave, Voila! You have a massive hot dog-parts explosion covering every square inch of that microwave. Why? Because it only take 20 seconds to heat up a hot dog, you dummy! This is a huge mess, and your mother is going to ground you for life. So what do you do in this emergency situation? Make a bowl of cereal instead, casually walk away from the kitchen, and when questioned later, feign righteous indignation and swear that you saw your sister do it.
A Recipe: Found in a thing called a “Cookbook”, most recipe instructions go something like this: they show you a list of needed ingredients, the preparation steps, and a picture of the finished product that is so mouth-wateringly delicious-looking, you’ll probably just cut out the picture, put it directly onto your plate and eat that for lunch instead. And BONUS, you’ll save so much time you can watch that episode of “Pretty Little Liars” on You Tube for the 47th time. But just in case you’re feeling adventurous enough to leave the couch for longer than 15 minutes and make the long trek to the kitchen, then you’re going to need to learn a few recipe vocabulary words.
Preheat: This means to turn the oven ON. Or maybe the range top. Or possibly the A/C, ‘cause it’s getting hot in this kitchen. Or all maybe all three.
Boil: This means to put food in hot, bubbling water. It could also define a really gross pimple-looking thing. Think back to your last English class and use “context clues” to figure out which is the intended meaning.
Broil: This has something to do with really high heat. Don’t try this at home. Or anywhere, for that matter. Just remove the “r” in the word and go with “Boil” instead. See above.
Puree: A goofy French word like “Ooh La Lah.” Like most French things, it’s too fancy, so you can probably just ignore it.
Baste: Don’t worry about it. It’s more complicated than an algebraic equation. Again, just make yourself a bowl of cereal and try not to starve until supper.
OK, that covers all of the basic terms. As a beginning teen cook, anything you try to cook will probably taste like crispy, Au Gratin, sautéed cardboard. But that’s OK, because becoming a well-seasoned chef takes lots of time and practice, usually about 20 years or so, to get it just right. But do not get discouraged. Think of it this way: riding a bike didn’t take that long to learn, right? And now you are an Old Pro at bike riding, which means that when you get to college, you can become a Take-Out Food Bike Delivery person. And BONUS, since you probably didn’t learn any cooking skills from this dumb blog, you will get an employee discount on take-out food! Which means that starvation is one less thing you will have to worry about. See? Life skills, baby.