Witness these facts: I've got a Cuisinart, two pasta makers, and duplicate sets of fancy French and German cooking knives. I've got 72 (or at least it seems like that many) vegetarian cookbooks, and a thick file with thousands of other recipes. I'm constantly pontificating on the endless variety and excitement of a vegetarian diet. I make fun of boring meat eaters who insist on eating the same four animals two or three times a day, every single day of their lives.
Mr. Big-Shot vegetarian, huh? Yeah, well it's easy to talk a big game. But if the truth be known, when the peanut butter hits the fan (the salad hits the colander, so to speak), I'm a fraud.
Yes, it's true. While I smile and extol the virtues of vegetarianism to everyone I meet, inside I'm tortured by a bitter reality—I haven't had a creative food idea in years. I'm in a food rut.
When I think about it, maybe it's always been this way. After all, there was that time when I survived for the better part of two years on nachos and beer (or was it Scotch?). But I was young and foolish then, and things like that had some appeal. What's my excuse now? There's no time to shop? No time to cook? Have I gotten lazy in my old age, or is my right brain just on vacation in Fiji?
I swear I've tried to break out of this rut. I've gone through every kind of bean I can find, but they all seem to taste the same. Ditto for greens. I bought a bottle of pickled watermelon rinds the other day, hoping for something different. But there they sit in the back of my refrigerator. I even bought a can of tomato aspic, the only food I hated as a kid, willing to give it one more try. I still hate it.
Everybody probably gets into food ruts now and then, but you'd never know it talking to my friends. The meat eaters I hang around with are either bragging about the new Tasmanian restaurants they've found, or tossing the names of rare mushrooms and snooty French wines into casual conversation. They don't seem to lack for excitement at the dinner table.
The vegetarians I know are even worse. They're all so upbeat about their diets. Take my friend Melissa, for example. When she hosts a dinner party she makes twenty (count 'em!) exciting new dishes—all vegan! Why can't I cook like that?
Next weekend I'm going to beat this thing. I'll dig out one of those 72 cookbooks and find something really unique to fix. Time, trouble, and hard-to-find ingredients will be no obstacle. I'm throwing out my motto that if it takes longer to cook than to eat, it isn't worth it. I'm determined to blaze gastronomic trails.
With my luck I'll like whatever it is. I'll like it so much, it will be on my dinner table every night for the next 6 months.
You know you're in a food rut when...
1. You've memorized your grocery list, and you carry exact change to the store.
2. Your cat "Bushwacker" no longer shows any interest in the sound of an opening can.
3. Your freeloading cousin Bernie turns down a dinner invitation.
4. You start to cook before you decide what you're making.
5. You go shopping for a microwave oven with a "memory" function.
6. Your kids decide to move into their own apartment...and the oldest one is only 13!
7. Your husband comes home and says, "I ate at the office."
8. You learn to perfectly synchronize your lunch preparation with the commercials on Oprah.
9. Your dog "Wrecks" begs to go out at dinnertime.
10. Your child surprises you by learning the word "barf" in 27 languages.
11. You find yourself wearing one of those cutesy aprons that says: "I'm only filling in while the cook gets treated for the plague."