Cooking fatigue

American-style pandemic blues

by Ken Sehested

“Can’t we go to a restaurant? I’m tired of eating groceries.”
—Dennis the Menace cartoon

Our local paper has a weekly section devoted to cuisine—that’s the classy word for food—and often reviews the plentiful restaurant scene in this city that’s a magnet for tourism.

This week’s focus was captioned “No more dishes: 13 family-style meals ready for takeout.”

The third paragraph in the article begins, “Some local restaurants have responded to cooking fatigue with carryout family meals.”

“Cooking fatigue” is a new thing? A pandemic burden? An onerous affliction imposed by the ruthless virus? An encumbrance prompting urgent prayer-petitions for relief from Heaven itself? Is this one of the causes of the Capitol coup? (“We’re-sick-and-tired-of-Big-Government-requiring-us-to-cook-all-our-meals!”)

The first featured food establishment mentioned in the article notes that the cost of a meal for two is a mere $39. A veritable steal!

My mind’s council has a variety of voices and opinions that require my consultation on all but the most trivial of choices. One of them is a notorious penny-pincher.  (His name is Earl, in case you wanted to know; and he always buttons the top button on his shirt—even though he doesn’t wear a tie! So irritating!!)

Earl always clears his throat loudly when preparing to speak.

“Did you know, pray tell” (he always feigns piety with his “pray tells”), “that the average Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) allowance for a family of two is $260 per month? At that rate, said family would be able to afford 6.66666 of those $39 meals from the aforementioned eatery,” adding, redundantly—he’s forever being redundant, so irritating—“that’s 6.66666 meals per month.”

As always, Earl breaks out in a crooked little sarcastic grin before he sits down. So irritating. Plus he always finds a way of complicating perfectly innocent choices with facts.

I should also add that Earl always does math in his head. Even though he has one of those industrial-sized manual crank adding machines that sound, well, so cranky. Did I mention Earl is irritating?

As it happens, I have a number of friends in Cuba and, having traveled there frequently enough, I know the struggle to find sufficient food. Particularly given the economic pressures caused by Covid, compounded by the 60+ years of the US embargo of that country. Cuba provides food rations for all of its citizens, which once provided the minimum of calories, but does so no longer.

(The United Nations General Assembly has, for 29 years running, voted all-but-unanimously to condemn the US embargo. But who’s counting, right?)

Yet we, in the world’s wealthiest nation (truly exceptional), with grocery stores and bodegas stacked high with products of every imaginable choice, are experiencing “cooking fatigue.”

Rudely interrupting, Earl also noted that fully one-fourth of children in the US are not sure where tomorrow’s meals are coming from. Not to mention that we spend nearly $96,000,000,000 annually on pet food—which nearly equals Cuba’s gross domestic product. (Those folk are coming for our cookies!)

I mean, watayagonna do with this guy! He probably doesn’t read many $39 meal reviews.

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