Have you ever seen The Lorax? If you haven’t seen the movie, you’ve probably at least read the Dr. Seuss book on which it is based. It’s a cute story about the importance of nature to human life and the consequences of greed. The movie adaptation takes the concept a step further, adding a villain and several delightful musical numbers. Anyway, the evil character is an overly ambitious businessman who has somehow found a way to bottle and sell the only clean air in their town of Thneedville. He maliciously sings, “Everyone around here works for me. I sell them something they could get for free.” Basically the height of sinister, right there. Who would be cruel enough to make people pay for a basic human necessity? Except that in this world that we actually inhabit, we have to pay for our food and water every day if we wish to continue living.
Now I know complaining about this isn’t really valid. After all, we aren’t really paying for the actual food, we are paying for the work that cultivated and served it. Obviously all of those farmers, packagers, cooks, and servers definitely deserve to be paid a fair amount for their work. But from the consumer side, it still feels like a weird concept to pay for a basic need.
My complaints ultimately stem from an issue I have with meals in generals, so it’s more of a me problem than anything else. I am not exactly a master chef. I can follow a recipe for the most part when I need to, but sometimes I can’t even do that. My sister got really sick over this past holiday season so I was put in charge of baking the Christmas desserts. It was not a good idea. Apparently, the difference between 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 2 tablespoons is quite significant. But even when I read the instructions right and understand all the words (with a little help from my more experienced peers), I just don’t have the right disposition for it. Cooking requires thinking ahead, moving fast, and sometimes improvising, all of which are not my specialties.
My first snag is always at the very beginning, with the ingredients. I do not understand people who have all the ingredients needed for staple meals before even planning to make them. The way I think, why would I get onions if I am not specifically planning on using onions? If I am going to make real meals for myself, do I have to have every single thing for the whole week planned already? I love planning but how do I know what kind of mood I will be in for lunch three days from now? How do I know if I will feel like eating that onion? So I leave the onion in the grocery store and head for the chip aisle. Because every mood is a chip mood.
Then, if I manage to motivate myself to decide to cook something, drag myself to the store, and get exactly what the recipe says I need, the actual cooking process is just stressful. Recipes are rarely as detailed as I would like them to be. “Bake until brown.” How brown? Are we talking Nesquick chocolate milk color or dark chocolate color? Where is the line between lightly seared and just plain seared? And can we please make the world a better place and finally define how much a dash is!? There are too many questions. On top of that, everything has to be timed perfectly. Spend too much time contemplating the definition of a dash and you burn the vegetables. Or do everything too fast and you finish the chicken early and it gets cold while you wait for the bread to finish baking. I don’t understand how anyone ever pulls it off. Things are in the oven, and on the stove, and boiling over, and timers are going off, and there isn’t enough counter space, and people are hungry. I’m getting stressed just thinking about it. It’s too much.
So when I do cook, I have to take everything one step at a time, measure things exactly, and reread the entire recipe with every step. My mind is simply not compatible with the culinary arts. That’s where my bitterness toward the creation of food originates. I am perfectly satisfied with eating a lemon for dinner, so why would I go through such an elaborate and stressful process when a simple and delicious yellow fruit serves as the easy alternative? But, I suppose that tthat should make the amount I pay for food all the more worth it. I’m thankful for restaurants and for the manufacturers of ramen. I admire chefs and bakers who can do what I deem impossible. So instead of resenting the fact that I pay them to be able to sustain myself, I guess I will just put my money where my mouth is and be glad I get to put their food in my mouth.