Hey. It’s summer. Get the heck out of the kitchen. You’re making me look bad.
I maintain that this is the time for fast food with a clear conscience. I like to rationalize it this way: I could be on an expensive vacation somewhere, spending oodles of money. But since I am still home, dealing with all the cares of home, then I will take my own sort of mini-vacation – from the kitchen.
Well, you could argue that I have more time to cook, but I counter that I have less inclination, if that is possible. Besides, I am out and about, at the beach, on the road. It’s time to live on big burgers, Mexican food and lemonade at least three times a week.
In my further defense, I will say that during the school year, when life is regimented, I am the vitamin-pill drill sergeant and the green-vegetable queen. I never had any compunctions about browbeating my children and denying them anything palatable unless they choke down some zucchini or broccoli first.
Because I can sleep in, breakfast is always on the menu, from cold pizza to cold cereal. It is based on the well-known dietary laws of whatever is closest when you open the refrigerator.
I try to stock fresh fruit and reasonably healthy choice but if I run across that funky hot dog hut with the killer chili dogs, it’s on.
Occasionally, at some point in the summer hiatus, I am stricken with a wave of nostalgia and I will actually peel, boil, mix and bake the picnic fare that made my childhood summer’s memorable. For me, it was homemade potato salad, burgers (now turkey) with everything and chocolate cake with fudge icing. It will never taste as good as when Mom made it, since I am a food coward. I think they key to her flavorful potato salad was that it was just this side of bursting out in salmonella. The hamburger meat sat out by the grill for longer than we would ever permit in these days of E. coli awareness. But if our generation has learned anything, it’s that almost everything good is bad for you.
Occasionally, I flip through a cooking magazine and get delusions of grandeur. For a few minutes, in my mind’s eye, I am at the backyard grill, preparing perfectly seasoned shrimp kebabs, vegetables drizzled with flavored olive oil that will complement my pasta tossed with exotic mushrooms, tiny, odd-colored tomatoes and olives from the far corners of Greece.
Then I remember that I am cooking for two at the most and a husband who is not compelled to stop gardening just because food is hot and ready.
So it’s back to basics. Tonight, hot dogs, beans and watermelon. And in my house, ketchup can still be a vegetable.
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who favors a summer pot chuck. You take the pot and you chuck it back in the drawer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.