If The Nest Is Empty, Then Why All The Eggs?

We hear a good deal about the so-called “empty nest syndrome.” It is a time when our children are spreading their wings into adulthood. A time when the dinner table becomes less populated and the young adults who we have seen on a daily basis, mentored and disciplined, cajoled and congratulated, are now only sometime visitors.

We have not yet gotten to the point where full claim to bedrooms and storage facilities has been abandoned, but that is rapidly approaching. Many have warned that the adjustment of my partner of 32 years and I facing each other with none of the adolescent banter or responsibilities of daily parenting would be a shocking experience. Indeed, there was an adjustment which took all of twenty-four hours. The reduced electric bill, traffic on the laundry facility, and rights to transportation required no adjustment – the “normal” daily issues were simply absent.

Unfortunately, I had failed to plan for something that truly did need adjusting. Worse still, I never even considered the need to plan. As creatures of habit, certain things become so ingrained as to be automatic. For the past twenty years, I have been shopping to feed a family of four to six, making sure that the pantry was stocked with appropriate groceries, the freezer with appropriate meat and that there were appropriate munchies and after-school snacks. The weekly routine of lying in provisions involved, generally, a heaping shopping cart.

Even knowing, as I looked at my calendar, that Tessa, my youngest, would soon be moving on and into her housing at Clarion College, it never dawned on me that there was a need to draw down on the massive food stocks contained in my larder. Worse still, it never occurred to me two days before she left that buying a dozen yogurts and a gallon of milk might just be overkill. Thus, I was woefully ill-prepared finding that my pre-packaged frozen meats were set up for servings of five, when only two of us would be present. That the bulk items of cheese, frozen vegetables and the aforementioned yogurt, which were normally gone in a heartbeat were now impossible to consume within the expiration dates provided.

Freezer-burn be damned, I resolved, with some success, to first consume everything in the upstairs freezer, then move to the downstairs freezer while limiting food purchases to fresh fruits and vegetables as needed. To some degree the plan worked, but certainly without any aid of the food industry. I needed small, but everything now seemed incredibly large.

Chicken breasts are shrink-wrapped 3 to a pack. Either I end up with an odd piece, or I have to buy an amount that totals a common denominator of 2. Rice side dishes serve 4. Small hams will last us a week. Grapes in 2 lb. bags. Why can’t I buy ½ a bunch of carrots? There was once a time when I was always looking for a bigger, family-sized package, and now I can’t find one for a downsized family of two.

Fortunately, at least at the deli and fish counters, I can get a half-pound quantity, but if I want ground turkey, I have to buy a pound, giving me twice as much as I wanted. With only two predictable appetites eating, portion control has now become a reality at home, even if it is impossible to obtain at the store. So now, instead of those family-sized packages in the freezer, I have a multitude of mini-packs. Some contain a few hot dogs, the odd chicken breast, or some other residue of over packaging. I certainly don’t want to be wasteful, but the loose ends not being enough for a meal for two becomes somewhat problematic--Cook up some loose ends and then flip a coin to see who gets the chicken and who gets the hotdog? But, I think I’m getting the hang of it. I’m almost certain that by the time everyone comes home for the summer and I’m back to cooking for 4 or 5, I’ll have it down pat.

Read More on Chef Geoff
Volume 6, Issue 5, Posted 8:25 AM, 03.10.2010