The Tonight Meal

I used to eat dinner late at night all the time. I would get done with class, work, volunteering, the gym, or socializing and come home to start chopping. And stirring. And boiling. And browning. And then I would eat. And clean. My evening rituals never really started until at least eight. I would settle in and anticipate the productivity of my nine to two nightlife.

This evening, around 6:30, I thought to myself, “I can’t remember the last time I ate vegetables.” I went to the grocery and plucked out the greens and yellows that looked like they would provide much-needed sustenance. I felt as fresh as the newly plucked bean sprouts.

So now, when I look at my charred (definitely stick) pan and feel my either too-hard or too-soft vegetables in a “curry” goo,  I wonder about this former me. Did she have culinary catastrophes? Would she have eaten crunchy potatoes and undercooked chicken because she was just too tired to care about taste and/or Salmonella? Had she ever forgotten about rice on the stove AND flatbread in the oven?  Did she ever click the same incorrect link five times because her muscle memory was moving way faster than her logical brain was?

A few weeks ago I heard this Hidden Brain podcast about how people are bad at predicting their future selves. I don’t know if my former self would have anticipated my current level of exhaustion. Currently I work one job. Most of my life obligations are to myself. Sometimes I miss the buzz of rushing from one tightly packed scheduled event to another and then coming home to meal prep for my late-night lifestyle. But I also bet that my former self would be impressed with all the interactions, ideas, and tasks that get crammed into the daylight hours. I’m not sure. There’s still a lot to do, but after I eat this mess, the only promise of my night is my pillow.

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7 thoughts on “The Tonight Meal

  1. I remember being able to do things late in the night before kids, and eat fancy foods (or more fancy than plain noodles, baked chicken, and hamburger). Now I try (and fail) to decide what to eat by 3pm so dinner can get cooked before my 6 year old melts down from hunger. Never works! I have definitely forgotten rice on the stove, boiled a tea kettle dry until it burnt a hole in the bottom, and set bread in the oven on fire (with actual flames) because I left it in the over too long. You are not alone!

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  2. A kitchen without disasters isn’t a real kitchen at all! You are NOT THE ONLY ONE! I don’t have kids or anything, I just have a “me” that over-commits herself–and I know what you mean! I fantasize sometimes about producing dishes like you see on the pages of “Plenty” or The New York Times Cooking section. But the Thai noodle thing I made tonight looks kind of like a hot mess…tastes pretty good, though! (And also, I eat cookie dough raw–I live with a devil-may-care attitude toward Salmonella…) Keep on, keepin’ on! 🙂

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    1. I sometimes wonder if I’ve built up a tolerance after a childhood full of raw cookie dough. Your Thai noodle dish sounds delicious! I’m so happy that you had a successful meal 🙂

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      1. It was even easy. If you want it, I’d happily pass it on. From one busy workin’ girl to another…

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  3. I remember those 8 o’clock meals as well. Then it moved to 5 pm meals when there was a 7 o’clock bedtime for my daughter. Now some nights it is 5:40, sometimes 7:30…but if I don’t know what that meal will be before I leave for work, we end up with leftovers or soup from a box/can, or something not very nutritional. I think my mind just gets too full at work that if I wait until late afternoon to figure out meals, there is not much capacity for creativity in the kitchen. But then there are those days when I have it all figured out and I feel like superwoman, and despite that super-feeling…can’t wait to crawl into bed by 9 pm….

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