It's a Wonder We Make it Through the Day!

It’s a Wonder We Make it Through the Day!


I don’t really have tech support as a one-woman show here at Cook With What You Have. Technical breakdowns make my heart rate go up like biking up a hill when late to a meeting. That feeling plus a tired, cranky adolescent who still doesn’t make the connection between his mood and his empty stomach made for a tricky day yesterday. I felt the pressure, in the 15 minutes I had to pull some food together for my son and husband, to leave them something good and nutritious as I headed out the door for a late meeting.


My son’s tastes have swung towards flaming hot cheetos, pop tarts, oreos and chicken tenders. He often sells his (sometimes partial) sandwiches to friends at school and then visits Plaid Pantry for said items. I don’t really blame him. I used to steal change out of my mother’s purse when I was his age to buy Paprika Chips at school (in Germany) and let the sandwiches she sent me rot in the back of my closet (yes, she’ll be reading this post:)!


Ultimately yesterday’s challenges were mundane and not on par with those many people face. However, these moments make me acutely aware of how hard it can be to just nourish ourselves and our families. Convenience food is just that, convenient. But I’ve chosen a job, a business inspired by my love of food, love of people, love of farmers and love of using food as a daily opportunity for connection, joy, celebration and yes, nourishment. But some days don’t turn out that way. And of course you can still connect and take a moment to enjoy whatever it is you’re eating.


My stressed out state last night led to the above, un-photogenic elements–sauteed cabbage and black beans and sausage. My husband ended up putting it all in flour tortillas with some cheese for cook-with-what-you-have burritos. I guess all these years of preaching about pantry stocking (sausage in the freezer, cooked beans in fridge (canned would be just fine of course) and having some veg on hand (cabbage is the best! It keeps forever, delicious with nothing but salt and olive oil) paid off!


As a breast cancer survivor I think about the conflicting dietary information I read and want to do everything I can to stay healthy. As a parent I think about what my son needs to thrive and I think about my African-American husband with high cholesterol and how to best nourish him and us all.


I have no perfect answers. Stress doesn’t help so taking short cuts is important too. My years of cooking with or just assembling basic pantry items does help me get through days like yesterday without having to order take-out (extra $ plus extra time) and I’m committed to sharing more ways to nourish ourselves when there’s no time for chopping herbs and washing lettuce and cooking beans.



12 thoughts on “It’s a Wonder We Make it Through the Day!”

  • Good solution, Katherine. Yes, love that cabbage — we had Root Vegetable Soup du Jour the other day with the last quarter of one.
    And tell Ellis that I love cheetos too, but not those Flamin’ ones. At my advanced age I eat them VERY rarely and am appalled at myself after half a package. I’m glad some of his peers value the extraordinariness of your sandwiches!

  • I experienced my own health crisis this last year, and I found just trying to make dinner to suit all three of us extremely challenging. Thanks for posting the reality check of real life with children and how varying dietary needs based on real life health conditions. Food is medicine and balancing it all inside a family is hard work. Thanks for the continued food inspiration.

  • There is a lot of depth in this post but I’ll just share that at Ellis’s age I also went through a major Dorito’s, Milky Way, jojos phase, and I’m grateful for it because I learned a lot in the process. I would trade my homemade lunches for a slice of greasy spongy Domino’s Pizza. In the end, the food I was raised on came back into my life in a big way (obviously) but I also now have context for those foods and an understanding of how they light up our taste receptors and fox our brains. It’s amazing how rebellion will surface in the oddest places when you have parents who don’t give you enough outlets for acting out. It just wouldn’t be adolescence without taking that ride. Of course you know this but he is learning valuable stuff that will take him right back into the loving arms of home cooking before long. But first, like you and me, he may have to eat an entire bag of spicy chips for lunch and then feel completely insane.

  • Oh lady. This so resonates, both because I see the writing on the wall with my pre-pubescent kid and simultaneously am experiencing the fickleness of a toddler who one day adores snap peas and apples and the next will eat only…cheese. I say, a couple of years of Hot Cheetos after his amazing foundation will NOT be a problem in the scheme of things. He’ll circle back to the healthy roots.

    Also, though, just the love in this post as you navigate three different people’s tastes and health needs. The difficulty of constantly doing food prep. Some days it feels like all I do is chop veggies or make grains or freeze beans or toast toast, and that’s because I’ve made this choice to limit plastic-laden convenience foods and because I genuinely enjoy doing it for my family—but of course, it can feel like a drag, too. I’m learning to really relish the rare nights we eat out. Even if the food is disappointing, at least there are no dishes to do once we’re home??? Good. Luck. And keep sharing, we all need and want to hear about it.

    • cookwithwhatyouhave says:

      Thank you for sharing, Susie. I know you puzzle over similar issues and are also aware of the privileged position we are in. There’s so much more to say about navigating systemic and personal challenges at the same time. Thank you for the encouragement and I hope to write more this year!

  • I love this post Katherine… sometimes I imagine everyone else turning out beautiful perfect delicious healthy meals 7 days a week (and living in sparkling clean houses)! I love your writing voice, so honest and so rich with knowledge and commitment. Hope you get back to that book sometime! ❤️ to you …

  • When I was in middle and high school my darling father would (grudgingly) give me a quarter for school lunch while grousing about packing my lunch – ugg no one did that! I would skip the school lunch go across the street to a little fast food/school supply joint and buy a hot dog for fifteen cents and a soda for ten cents. Some times I skipped a part of the “meal” saved up money so that I could buy a new pair of shoes. I graduated high school in 1965. Times were tough for my parents and all my adult life I have been grateful to be in somewhat less tight financial circumstances. I do still like the occasional hot dog.

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