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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Frozen Food Experiment or How to Ruin Dinnertime

Apologies to the anonymous public, I have been side swiped by life~in a good way~ and my food obsessed blog has taken a back seat. In a nut shell the Château is on the market and we are to hitch our horses and move back to The Other Edge and to The Smallest State in our country.

I’ve been boxing up my life, turning our home into a product that the most generic of customers would love. Doing the mundane turns me introspective. Boxing up my table cloth collection was humbling and overwhelming. There wasn’t one cloth I wanted to move on and the junkie in me still wants to buy more. I released my vases from their plastic and displayed them with color coded pride in the pantry jostling with packaged and canned food. The silver? I was more hard core and nixed the catering trays and their memories. My hammered aluminum was scrutinized and thinned; the choicest pieces nestled in a packing box.

A box labeled “A Box of Joy and Bread” holds a small selection of Joy of Cooking and bread books that lived on our kitchen counter. They were replaced with one book-an autographed copy of The Way To Cook by Julia Child, to inspire. Decorative clusters of red Hall pieces add pop. Vickie Viking anchors another counter with the evil black Robot Coupe. No more dish drains or offensive dish soap for me! All are hidden away as if it’s natural to have a kitchen without them.

Along the way I realized to keep up the façade of a “gourmet” kitchen I couldn’t cook in it. I was far too messy. An idea came to me-what about exploring the world of diet frozen dinners? We just installed a snazzy microwave for the future owners and this would be a perfect excuse to “go where no Chef had gone before”.

It was so easy! I cruised an alien aisle filled with colorful boxes and enticing pictures. It was like a boxed menu! I rifled and dug until I decided on 7 meals from Smart Ones Morning Express Breakfast Quesadilla to Gluten Free Macaroni & Cheese. This was going to be fun! There was Healthy Choice spicy Caribbean Chicken and Michelina’s Lean Gourmet Santa Fe Style Rice & Beans. For fro-comfort food I bought Healthy Choice Golden Roasted Turkey Breast and a fancy Smart Ones Artisan Creation of Grilled Flatbread Savory Steak & Ranch. Yahoo!!

This was going to be fun!! The first night it was Snackies for the boys at 5pm. I rummaged through my new stash and opened Lean Cuisine Linguini Carbonara. I was psyched! The directions called for a combination of high nuke level and an on and off wrap. The total cooking time was less than 5 minutes so that meant I would be eating at 5:15. Not good. My internal dialog suggested that I make a salad or SOMETHING else to go with it but my rational sided intervened. NO MESS! Chastised I read my newspaper, computer and waited until 7pm.

This was the first time I looked that the front of the microwave. It’s quite the machine. There are 15 pre- settings from Kids Meals (it asked what kind) to baked potato. How hard could it be? Opening the microwave I lovingly put my dinner inside punched buttons…

What was this? The control panel said “Child Lock”! I’ll be damned! Wasn’t the microwave made for idiots and children? I pushed another sequence to no avail. Rats! I had to humble myself and read the manual. I unlocked the flipping thing and it commenced to cook. The dish spun happily around in its lighted splendor. Just as I sat down the discreet bell sounded and I jumped up to peel off the top wrap.

Well it wasn’t my idea of Linguini Carbonara. The pasta looked like spaghetti from when I was a kid and a stir confirmed it was overcooked. Microscopic bits of salty brown (bacon?) and green peppers diced by midgets added to the “flavor profile”. As I stared I had a sinking feeling.

Was this a good decision? How could I eat something at home that I hadn’t interacted with? It was so, so sterile and sad. I grabbed my microwave plane and covered the top in parmesan snow. It wasn’t worth setting a table for so Toshi(ba) and I ate.
I came close to bursting into tears on the first bite. It was gluey, tasteless, and ugly. Worst of all there was no satisfaction in eating it. I drank some wine to “cleanse my palate” and grabbed a spoon for a quick peanut butter and jam uplift.

Dinnertime, a time I used to look forward to, became a minefield of depression and unfulfilled meals.

The next night it was Smart Ones Artisan Southwestern Style Chicken Fiesta. Not much better. Midget cubes of meat and vegetables in a “roasted red bell pepper sauce”. I put my happy face on and stared at the flat disc that looked like bad pizza. Ah, but there was technique in cooking! The disc was cooked on a magic disc and could be baked soft or hard. When done it was folded in half!! I was thrilled until I bit into the crispy Velveeta textured sauce. I added Rainer cherries to my wine and peanut butter uplift.

This was not going the way I had planned! I was starting to question Joe public and their palettes. How could anyone eat this stuff on a regular basis? Push back from the table and say, “Wow that was a swell meal! I’m so physically full and satisfied I can’t think of putting another thing in my mouth!”

Dread followed me when I opened the freezer. It looked like the selection was growing. Could breakfast be as bad? A morning quesadilla answered that question. Looking at the serving size they said 1 piece. It was packed 2/package. Insidious. I ate one. I don’t know where the egg whites were lurking, but chez whiz was coating everything. There was an ooze factor that gave the illusion of “oh, my how gooey!!”

I hit my wall last night, mess be damned! I had to make something for myself. By this time the vegetable bin was brimming w/ rotten vegetables and I still was emphatic about not making a mess. There had to be something…Pasta, frozen pre-cooked sausage, frozen tomato sauce, I added a splash of red wine, basil, marjoram and oregano. I felt like I was cooking in college. This was hardly fancy but I was playing with my food and it calmed my soul. I defiantly ate my pasta, wine, watched Julie & Julia on Netflix and didn’t need a PBJ uplift.

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