It is 1983. Mom has us 3 kids plus a job and Dad is out of the house at work all day. She’s the one who puts breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table amidst chaos and deadlines and responsibilities. And she’s doing it on a budget.
Its a Tuesday in this story. In the morning, she pulls a whole chicken out of the freezer and sticks it in the sink. FDA and their recommendations about thawing food in the fridge be damned: Mom needs that bird defrosted and in the oven so it will be done when Dad gets home from work, the hungry teenagers roll in starved from track at school and definitely in time to give the preschooler (that’s me, by the way) a full belly and then off to bed.
Afternoon rolls around and Mom’s back from a few after-work errands. That bird’s thawed and has gotta get in the oven. But, a woman’s voice is hollering through the screen door. Suzanne, Mom’s pal, has stopped by just like that. Its 1983, remember? It was ok back then, we didn’t text in advance.
Suzanne wants Mom to come with her…”and c’mon, you have two hours until the other kids come home. Bring A.S. in the back.” (Nobody called me Sri then.)
Mom had a lot of responsibilities, but she wasn’t going to miss out on life because of them. But what about dinner?
True story, remember? With one hand, she picked up the defrosted chicken by the leg. With the other hand, she opened the pot. The bird went right in without spice or ceremony. She closed the lid and put the whole thing in the oven and set the heat and walked out the door.
“Done,” Mom said, grabbing her keys.
Suzanne said, “That looked like something Carol Burnett would do.”
In my herbal practice, I think of this story all the time. In every initial appointment comes the dreaded question: will you describe your typical breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Seriously. People would rather describe the color and texture of their poop than come clean about the crap they are eating. Don’t even get me started about the answers I get to the question of how often people eat out.
The bottom line is this: too many people are not eating real food, or they are paying someone else to make it. And 90% of the time they have an excuse. It’s either, “I don’t know how to cook!” or “I’m too busy.”
This is bunk. So I took myself to task and made Carol Burnett chicken to prove that cooking can be easy, fast and delicious. After all, mom told me this story over the phone when I was in my first apartment and trying to figure out how to feed myself. I think she added that you can tell a chicken is cooked by wiggling the leg and seeing if it is loose and looks like it wants to come off and get eaten up right then and there.
The final product was juicy, flavorful and tender. It was better than good and that mattered because when I started the process, I had forgotten there would be dinner guests. Though, I have to come clean about one thing. I added salt and pepper. I just couldn’t handle possibly wasting an entire chicken and subjecting my guests to what possibly may have come out a bland, unevenly cooked mess. Turned out, it would have been just fine without.
Since I had company, I spruced it up a bit for the table by opening a jar of my homemade (also ridiculously easy) preserved meyer lemons (the plain kind) to serve on top. I served a nice crusty, artisianal bread, a simple salad and some braised greens from the garden. A bottle of wine. Finger-lickin’ and I spent less than 20 minutes in the kitchen.
This proves it. I am no longer accepting the “I don’t have time” or the “I don’t know how” excuse. Clients be forewarned that you will be referred to this post.
Oh and leftovers? This chicken could have been cut up and dropped into broth with veggies as soup, or chopped up and mixed into a salad, or stir-fried with noodles and seasoned with garlic, ginger and lime and squirted with soy sauce. The carcass got simmered with a splash of wine and whatever scraps I had.
This cooking stuff CAN be easy. Take it from Carol Burnett.