I finally found the McDonald’s in my neighborhood. Well, my neighborhood-ish, and I want to point out that I wasn’t looking for it in the first place. I was on the bus to Golden Gardens (because I didn’t yet know that accessing the beach there without a car is potentially a death wish, but more on that some other time) and rode by the McDonald’s in Ballard, which I think is the first one I’ve seen in the three months since I moved to Seattle. The last time I ate McDonald’s – or any fast food, for that matter – with any regularity was sometime shortly after high school, and even then, my consumption was mostly limited to M&M McFlurrys and the occasional order of Period Fries. Meaning, of course, fries purchased to satisfy me when I was on my period.
Because sometimes periods are more appropriate than fart jokes.
I never felt the allure of fast food because I never grew up eating it. My dad was a produce man who started his working life in restaurant kitchens, so every one of our meals was cooked in our kitchen and had at least two fresh plant-based foods on the plate. While I didn’t start cooking until after I moved out (because a father who is a produce man who started his working life in restaurant kitchens means someone is always hanging over your shoulder telling you that you’re doing it wrong), I guess I learned how the kitchen worked fairly quickly. And by “fairly quickly,” I mean let’s just ignore that year and a half where I made meatloaf once a week and lived on the leftovers for the following two days.
I’m much better at cooking now, and because I don’t have kids or enough money to travel extensively, a lot of my disposable income is spent on grocery shopping. I haven’t made meatloaf for at least a year. I’m the one who cooks in our house, too, as someone who cooks for a living (Graham) isn’t about to come home and spend another hour in front of the stove.
I’m not big on quick meals, either. I actually like the prep work. Peeling garlic feels like meditation, or it would if I were into things like meditation (and I’m not, yoga turns me into the most neurotic Jew you’ve ever seen). I don’t need to turn a meal into an hours-long event, but ideally, I’d like an hour for prep and assembly and then some additional “walk away time” for stewing, braising, or something else that doesn’t require that I stand there and worry about the smoke alarm. This weekend I made spaghetti in homemade marinara. Last night I made a variation on Braised Coconut Spinach and Chickpeas (my version is better). Today I’m slow-cooking chili for chili mac (go America!)*.
It just feels nice to be able to not only feed myself, but to feed myself real food from whole ingredients and get a solid block of mind-clearing time out of it. It helps that I have no one to hover over my shoulder, too, because that means I get to listen to my own music and do things in my own way.
When I’m not streaming KDHX shows (which are the best but wifi in my kitchen is weird and a lot of them get cut off after about 25 minutes), I usually find an album and start playing until I’m done cooking. The list changes frequently, these are the Top 10 albums for the past couple of months. In no particular order:
69 Love Songs, The Magnetic Fields
Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, Camper Van Beethoven
Now We Can See, The Thermals
The Brutalist Bricks, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Ode to Sunshine, Delta Spirit
Ancient Mars, The Zolas
The Carpenter, The Avett Brothers
Dark on Fire, Turin Brakes
Together, The New Pornographers
Let It Be, The Replacements
*As meditative as I find cooking to be, I don’t think I’ll be able to handle full-on cooking after I spend this afternoon mailing Christmas packages at the post office. Seattle seems pretty civilized, but after this chore, I’m sure that I’ll come home and immediately pour myself a drink. Or four.
Edited to add: Seriously had the most humanity-affirming experience at the post office less than a week before Christmas. No homeless people getting gifts of shoes or anything, just basic manners and pleasant employees, and someone giving up their place in line for someone else. SEATTLE I LOVE YOU EVEN THOUGH IT’S PISSING RAIN KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.