christopher575 (christopher575) wrote,

Revisiting the sides

Sixteen years ago my life was pretty unpleasant. I'd overcome a lot of personal issues, but found myself deep in debt, and working a job I didn't like that also didn't pay much. The commute took up about three hours of my day, and I worked a swing shift, so even if my social life hadn't already been in shambles, I wouldn't have been able to see people very often. But one of my biggest issues was that I was almost 30 and still didn't know how to cook. And when you don't have any money, it's pretty daunting to try to figure it all out. Don't have spices yet? That'll be five bucks for each one listed in the recipe, which calls for a lot of other ingredients you'll just use a little bit of.

Each time I went to the store I wandered the aisles trying to figure something out to make. It's hard to describe the frustration, especially to people whose parents actually made the effort to teach them the basics. For a long time, I lived on Knorr sides mixed with frozen vegetables. Anyone can boil water and work a microwave, so a few bucks can yield a couple of dinners. I don't ever remember them tasting bad, but the repetition and lack of options really got to me.

Thankfully I started watching cooking shows when Garrett and I started dating. Watching people cook helps a lot when a recipe on its own is baffling. In the beginning, I'd watch a segment four or five times before attempting it. And there were a lot of failures early on, even with the simplest recipes from the show 5 Ingredient Fix, the one that really emboldened me finally try cooking. To this day, every time I heat up a pizza, I have to laugh because the pizza pan I use was completely unsuitable for Claire Robinson's pizza recipe; it has holes for air flow and the recipe used real dough that seeped through them.

Garrett and I both recently picked up some of the newer Knorr sides and he sweetly asked if it was ok to try them because he knew I lived on them for a long time. I was definitely ready.

He's at work tonight so I made a much nicer version of what I used to make because I didn't know what else to do. I boiled the water for a Knorr roasted garlic pesto with volanti pasta side and cooked some frozen raw shrimp in it first. Then I removed that and cooked the side dish, then shredded and added a small chunk of manchego I found in the fridge, plus frozen mixed vegetables and fresh halved grape tomatoes. The mixed vegetables were originally going to be a side, but I made a judgment call about the volume and decided mixing it would make for the best leftovers. I also toasted a piece of garlic naan that's been in the freezer for months.

It was a really lovely dinner and the other half will make a nice meal for one of us tomorrow. And I feel really nice because I've turned an old miserable aspect of my life on its ear. The grooves from past trauma run deep and I'll never go to a grocery store as long as I live without feeling a little bit of dread. But now I always channel it and think about how much better everything about my life is and how grateful I am for Garrett. I've put in a lot of work over the last 16 years, but he was the main reason I wanted to and he provided the environment I was able to flourish in.


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