As a Working Mother, I’m Proud to Announce My Sabbatical From the Kitchen
According to a recent poll, seven in ten consumers say they will continue to cook at home after the pandemic. Apparently those who cook at home love it! You are more creative and more confident than me. It helps save money and often makes eating healthier.
I don’t know who these seven out of ten people are. I’m clearly in the three out of 10. I run out of steam from my fourth cup of instant coffee, feel bloated – and feeding four people at home who eat often because they’re bored doesn’t seem to save me money.
I’m sick of dicing and slicing and sautéing. Mix and simmer and grill. Scrubbing and rinsing. Loading and unloading the dishwasher. While I spend my morning rearranging the fruit in the fridge and counting how many granola bars we have left, I can’t remember the last time I washed my hair. I haven’t painted my nails in 16 months. It would be nonsensical to invest in beautiful red nails when I have to scrub the pan after my family devoured this easy fried chicken recipe.
When did I register to cook three meals a day for a family of four? My son has become an abyss eating his dinner and then looking for cereal and yogurt. My daughter likes three different flavors of expensive ice cream and I love to spoon them on sugar bags. My husband is always looking for snacks; our closet looks like a tech start-up snack bar with fancy nuts, dried fruits, and granola bars that I’ve never heard of.
However, my kitchen looks like a war zone. Dull kitchen knives, loose pot lids, split cutting boards. Broken tea cups, missing spoons, a bent strainer. Stained pot holders, a broken lasagne bowl and more frayed kitchen towels than I can count.
I believe our microwave, refrigerator, oven, and dishwasher are silently plotting a mutiny as they pretend they’re not working and some days they refuse to start. And who could blame them? It was pre-pandemic purchases, kitchen upgrades that should never be used that often.
In fact, they signed up for a home that they knew their contributions would be minimal. With two busy working parents, they knew the microwave would take the brunt of the burden. They spent most of the days resting while the knock on the door indicated the arrival of Uber Eats and Thing! reminded her of warming Tyson’s chicken nuggets in the worn toaster.
When the restaurants open, I can hear the collective sighs – followed by big cheers – from all parents across the country who need a break from the kitchen. Aprons are thrown aside and dirty dishes are piled up and left in the sink. Don’t forget the piles of rubbish lying there waiting to be taken out!
The three of ten of us all run to our first dinner reservation, our first meal, our first meeting outside of the house at a table full of crayons and construction paper that isn’t our own. We race, sprint, and rush to remember what it’s like when someone brings you a hot meal cooked just for you – not leftovers you eat off your child’s plate.
My first meal with my family was beyond words. I was nervous, scared, and delighted when I reluctantly peeled off my mask. I was fascinated by the menu and sat in awe of a table that was already set without plastic cutlery. I looked around in amazement, watched other guests quietly enjoying their food, and listened to the clink, clink of real cutlery.
I was speechless when the waiter added my water to an adult glass without asking. I burst into tears when I was handed a steaming bowl of lobster bisque with warm bread. I sniffed when I was presented with the dessert menu: no chocolate chip cookies, no Ben & Jerry’s Strawberry Cheesecake, and no Firecracker Popsicles. The bill came and I didn’t have to worry about washing a bunch of dishes. Out of habit I started stacking the plates and clearing the table. The waiter smiled at me, and his eyes told me he was wondering what on earth I was doing. He thanked me and took the dishes from my hand. I stood there with nothing more to do than grab my purse and walk out the door with my husband and the surprisingly well-behaved children.
I am officially signing out of “What to Cook This Week” in the New York Times. My husband is now not only responsible for ordering, but also for preparing all of our Hello Fresh dishes. I don’t want to hold another spatula in my hand, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle any spices or squeeze sauces, stir, stir, stir with a dash of reserved pasta water – until at least January 2022.
This chef is officially taking a sabbatical. This kitchen may close after Labor Day and then reopen on a random date. If you’re planning a visit, you can help yourself to anything in our kitchen: goldfish crackers, cheese string and yoghurt sticks. Please, please, please make sure you order some replacement milk on the way out – we are going to need it, and I sure won’t get it.
Mita Mallick is Head of Inclusion, Equity and Impact at Carta and loves living in Jersey City with her husband and two young children.