When there are two of us, dinner is usually a snap. I cook some dishes like there is a whole crew, and it leaves an ice box full of leftovers—it’s easy to grab a jar of homemade chili and call it dinner.
The six-pack of eight ounce packages of cream cheese needed to be used. Yesterday I made a spread of one package, roasted red peppers, three cloves of garlic, and a tablespoon of mayonnaise. Once the cream cheese is to room temperature, everything comes together in the food processor. Three cloves of garlic bordered on being too much, but the spread will serve for a couple of days.
This morning a pot of mixed beans is cooking. On the cutting board are generous mounds of carrot, celery and onion. Once the beans are cooked, the whole lot will go into the pot with some bay leaves and enough homemade stock to cover. It will simmer a couple of hours until it becomes soup—just in time for lunch before I head over to the warehouse for a shift.
While there is prep work, and transformation with heat, is this really cooking? At a basic level it is. Acquired knowledge about spreads, soups and chili makes the work quick and easy. Even a long prep and cooking time, like there is with bean soup, is not hard. However, it is certainly not glamorous or particularly inventive. It is subsistence at the most basic level: turning raw material into food for sustenance.
As easy as this type of cooking is, there is a temptation to use prepackaged, precooked food as the main course in a cuisine. There are so many varieties of processed food, a person could go for months without having the same dish twice. At a price point of around $10 for a multi-serving package, processed food seems cheap, even if it isn’t. In the end, any home cooking is leveraged from the idea of controlling what we eat and the ingredients from which food is made more so than food cost. For the most part processed food is an infrequent convenience or comfort.
With the abundance of food in the U.S., it is hard to figure how people go hungry. They do. Even in our community of about 5,000 people we have a food bank that is well used. Perhaps we have gotten too far from producing meals in a kitchen from raw ingredients.
My mixed bean soup is easy to make, but there is a process to be learned and followed. It will make a dozen servings, and whatever the cost, that is cheap both in money and in work. We need to eat, so why not some bean soup? Why not indeed.