I’m not particularly creative, not in terms of being able to doing craftsy things, come up with all sorts of solutions, or write music out of the blue. But I definitely like to create in the kitchen, to experiment with combining different flavors, textures, and cultures.
You probably noticed that.
Sometimes I have enough peculiar ingredients stashed around the house to make anything a little more unusual, or sometimes I go out and pick up some new things to try working with. And then sometimes, just looking at some of the more common or “mundane” ingredients in a different light is all it takes.
These days, I have fewer options with which to be creative. I get really tired with normal food pretty quickly and crave bolder, spicier, newer flavors. This can be super annoying, but it can also be kind of fun. For the good of my own self, I need to practice contentment even in blandness — yet I also function better when given the option to be creative.
So hospital food is an interesting challenge for me. I’m very grateful for the trays provided for me as a caregiver here in Brian’s room, and I'm not going to lie, it’s pretty handy to not have to wash dishes. The meal options truly aren’t the worst, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at a few of the choices.
That said, a little bit of me dies with every bite of iceberg lettuce. Having my spices limited to salt and pepper is not my modus operandi, and occasionally the coffee makes me want to cry.
That’s when I just start mixing stuff up and hoping for the best. I probably won’t share all my attempts with the general public, since I’ve had varying degrees of success, but there’s something to be said about working with what you have.
As Pablo Picasso said, “The chief enemy of creativity is common sense.” You just have to throw out typical approaches from time to time, and consider, what’s the worst that can happen?
Yeah, okay, some pretty gross stuff could happen. I have never tried cocktail sauce on vanilla ice cream since that one fateful day, but I did learn some valuable lessons about mixing tomato products with creamy desserts.
You never know until you try it. Cottage cheese with steamed carrots and a ton of pepper is worth “making” again, broccoli with cashews and honey tastes kinda fancy, and honey mustard dressing is a good condiment for a surprising number of foods. Who knows, maybe the rest of the world will catch onto the delicious possibilities of bananas with chocolate and popcorn, hard-boiled eggs chopped into peach yogurt, or fruit snacks in the same mouthful as pecans.
Weirded out yet? Remember those were just the good combos.
Amanda Miller writes a column about local foods for The Hutchinson News. She teaches classes at Apron Strings and makes cheese on her family’s dairy farm near Pleasantview. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org