Greenpoint: Cooking rut? Try making meals for others


It might be the end-of-winter doldrums, the lack of fresh garden produce or the approaching one year we-can’t-go-anywhere-and-no-one-can-come-here anniversary, but I’m kind of sick of cooking.

I like cooking. I like it from the very start — growing vegetables, milking goats, making cheese. I like finding or making up recipes. I like making food that tastes great and is good for you. I like feeding people.

I’m just tired of it. Apparently it’s a trend.

Midweek I had to leave home for an eye exam. Afterward, I stopped at a pizza place next and brought some food to a friend’s house. We had a pandemic dinner party, sitting bundled up on her porch in properly spaced lawn chairs. It had stopped snowing and it wasn’t that cold, so we got to talk for a while. She said she was sick of cooking.

“I’m making great food because I have all this time,” she said. “I’m just tired of it.”

I had a similar conversation during a walk with my neighbor friend. She said her husband, who does all the cooking in their house, asked her to order takeout somewhere, anywhere. He was kind of depressed, and tired of cooking.

I started thinking that maybe the problem isn’t the cooking, it’s the not being able to share meals with friends and family. My walking neighbor and I like to have community kitchen days — or we did, pre-pandemic — where we’d spend the day making jam, or applesauce, or pesto, or Christmas cookies. It’s a lot more fun to prepare in bulk with a buddy.

I got up early the next day and started cooking. I thought maybe if I made a bunch of meals on one day it would be easier for the whole week.

I made a quiche with two kinds of goat cheese, mushrooms and a little smoked salmon. I made a pot of lentils with sausage. I made rice, a turkey meatloaf, a big bowl of steamed and spiced broccoli and cauliflower, which could be eaten hot or cold. I made some yogurt out of the goat milk. And we already had chicken from the night before in the fridge.

I realized I had become a one-person community kitchen, and I had made enough food to share. We already have one shut-in we’ve been delivering a few meals a week to, since the pandemic began. With all that variety it was easy to pack up meals for him.

Then I thought of my walking friend’s husband, depressed because he’s lost two friends to COVID. I packed up three meals for them, a breakfast, lunch and dinner, and dropped it off on their porch. Maybe a day off from cooking would cheer him up.

I thought about when my grandmother was old and living alone and didn’t feel much like cooking. Or eating. It just seemed like too much bother, just for herself, she told me. But when I came over to cook for her, she ate plenty and enjoyed it.

At this point I think a lot of us are feeling like my grandmother did.

This pandemic’s not over yet, and we can’t cook with our friends or invite them over to share a meal. So maybe it’s time for everyone to cook a meal for a friend or neighbor. I think they need a break.

If you’re like me, cooking for others makes cooking more fun and interesting. And if you’re on the receiving end, it might be delightful to get a break from the routine. Then maybe you could pass the favor on to someone else who might need a boost.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on March 14. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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