Home cooking goes on back burner during remodeling

by lcmremodel

Being displaced from your kitchen during a remodel drives home the point that even the best deli, takeout and doggy bag fare can’t provide that deep satisfaction that comes from slowing down long enough to prepare your own meal from scratch.

What’s the first thing you’re going to cook?

This is the question I’ve been getting lately, as my new, bigger, dare-I-say-dream kitchen nears completion. (We have cabinets! Countertops! And most recently, floors!)

Answer: I have no idea.

For about three months now, we’ve been winging it for meals.

I started out with an urban pioneer spirit, envisioning meals cooked in the slow cooker or microwave or on the indoor grill. I even looked into buying a portable burner. The first couple of weeks, I did make a few dishes in the crockpot.

But I soon realized the impracticality of this kind of makeshift cooking when living with a project of this scope.

Nearly every room in the house has been affected by the construction, turned into temporary storage for the contents of the kitchen, the dining room china cabinets (the built-in that we lost, plus the free-standing cabinet that had to be moved), bins from the attic (where air conditioning ducts had to be installed), along with the stove and refrigerator, the kitchen table and microwave. And did I mention that our small basement is a construction zone as well?

Long story short: The only prep space available with a water supply was the bathroom at the top of the stairs, the one where I get ready every morning. That just wasn’t going to work out.

Add to that extra demands on our time owing to the project — whole days spent removing wallpaper (uggh) and painting rooms, etc. — and something had to give.

And so, I’m afraid we resorted to a routine of sandwiches, yogurt, takeout, deli fare, doggy bags and shamelessly wishing for dinner invitations.

(Thank you again, Robin and Chris, for that lovely pre-Thanksgiving dinner and the leftovers you sent home!)

Do I miss cooking? You bet. It’s been killing me not to be able to bake Christmas cookies. It saddens me to know that no one will be coming to our house for the holidays this year — though I am appreciative that my oldest daughter in Madison has stepped up to host our celebration.

Mostly, I miss home-cooked food. But the yearning goes beyond that.

It’s true what they say — there is something primal about preparing your own food. Food is one of the few true needs we have as humans, along with water, shelter and sleep (and, some would add, good health care and maybe love/companionship).

It’s no surprise that so many food gurus, from Michael Pollan to our own local columnists, to just about every food blogger in the blogosphere, is urging folks to just stay home and cook already.

More often than not, home-cooked food is not only healthier, but also more economical and better tasting. And there is that deep satisfaction that comes from slowing down long enough to chop, sauté, mix, toss, garnish — depending on what’s on the menu — without relying on some stranger in a commercial kitchen. It’s even better when a fellow diner expresses gratitude for your efforts.

Even the best deli, takeout and doggy bag fare can’t provide that.

So what’s the first thing I’ll cook, when my new kitchen is ready in (fingers crossed) a couple of weeks?

I will let you know when I get there, probably — fittingly — at the start of the new year.