Every year, when Jayne and I go away on our writing retreats, we promise ourselves to cook more. We bring cookbooks, ideas, and oversized appetites for all the amazing things we plan to cook. Jayne pulls out some Home and Garden type magazines with dog-eared pages of macaroni and cheese dishes that we’re absolutely going to cook this year. I have my trusty Sophia Loren cookbook (jealous? Yeah, I thought so) that always inspires me to drool over the pages (mostly metaphorically). Then, we just wait for the perfect moment to get cookin’. And this is usually how it goes.
Step 1: Get Hungry
I look up from my laptop and try to catch Jayne’s eye to announce melodramatically, “Boo. I’m hungry.” I simply can’t focus on writing anymore knowing that somewhere out there is a meal waiting for me. After a brief dialogue, we reach a consensus. We are hungry.
Step 2: Google Food
Now we must decide on a matter far more important: what to eat. And in an effort to think of something new and agreeable to both parties, we fall into that eternal trap– Googling food –where we proceed to waste the next half hour. Hunger grows. Stomachs are growling. The threat of grumpiness looms. The refrigerator is checked and re-checked repeatedly for something suitable. Nothing looks nearly as appetizing as all the amazing options Google has shown us. All is lost.
Step 3: Head to the Store
“Let’s just go to Albertson’s,” Jayne announces in a moment of hungry clarity. Yes, Albertson’s. There we can buy all the delicious ingredients for our magazine-perfect macaroni and cheese dish. Or maybe some roasted lamb to make Ms. Loren proud. This will be the moment we cook something amazing and delight in our domestic prowess. We get in my car with renewed hope.
Step 4: Stop Jayne
Finally inside the gloriously air-conditioned store, after grumbling loudly at all the idiots in the parking lot, we behold our Valhalla. We grab a cart like real adult-like people who aren’t currently being governed only by the voices of hunger whispering sweet empty calories in our ears. I steer toward the meat aisle when a loud, abrupt, “Ooh!” rings out.
Oh, no. Jayne has found something. It’s a bag of Hostess donuts which only look appetizing when your blood sugar level drops the way Jayne’s must be doing right now. I can tell because she’s got that wild look in her eyes that says, “Diabetes be damned!” I gently remind her of our culinary goal and she puts down the bag, the wild look passing from her eyes.
Another aisle over. “Ooh! Ooh!” This time, it’s Twinkies. Once again, I remind Jayne that we’re actually going to make a whole 3-course meal and Twinkies just don’t pair well with…anything. Nodding, Jayne abandons the Twinkies somewhere along the way.
“Dude! Ooh!” and a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos. Prying the bag out of Jayne’s hands like a maniac who sees people only as obstacles to food now, I gently reassure her that we’ll stuff our faces with delicious things if only we could get to the meat aisle.
Finally on our way again, I… oh.. what’s this?
Step 5: Invest in Knick-Knacks
Albertson’s has an entire aisle dedicated to seasonal products that are useless 99% of the time. But Jayne and I have hit that groovy 1% where the hunger’s making us so delirious we’re going to really want those 4th of July Roman candles but ONLY if we can also get the novelty sunglasses with the American Eagle in the reflection of the frames. The one just doesn’t make sense without the other.
Suddenly, we need crazy straws and oversized novelty cups and silly hats and amazing ’80s sunglasses. We become every advertiser’s dream as we seriously consider each impulse buy, no matter how ridiculous. It’s not until we carefully peruse the entire aisle that we finally return to the task at mouth.
Step 6: Actually Buy the Food
Amazingly, we manage to restrain ourselves from buying all the unappetizing pre-packaged pastries and microwaveable White Castle burgers and actually buy only the food we had on our list (ok, maybe 1 or 2 additions snuck into our cart). We roll out to the parking lot like champions because we fought the shopping-while-hungry law and won. Yeah ok, maybe we’re wearing some new neon sunglasses and have some American flag wind spinner sticking out of our bag or something, but all in all it was a successful visit.
Step 7: Come Home
We unload our bags, put away the perishables, and eagerly whip out those recipes to see what comes next. Once we’re done salivating over the pictures, the harsh truth hits us: it takes an hour to prepare every dish we wanted. And our hunger simply isn’t patient enough. Jayne and I guilty exchange wordless glances, both shamefully asking the same thing: shall we perhaps put off this wonderful, healthy meal for tomorrow and make something else?
Step 8: Corn Dogs
Yes we shall. And the answer is always corn dogs. We still end up with a 3-course meal, only now each course is corn dog (serving size be damned!). Our hunger finally satisfied, we happily return to our writing table and continue tapping away those corn dog-fueled thoughts.