Sunday, January 24, 2010

Romance of the mundane

On a recent visit to the public library, Cady Gray and Archer discovered, a website of free games. Since then they've spent hours playing card games and puzzles.

But the one Cady Gray keeps going back to is "What's For Dinner?" Now, to me, this is like a stand-up comedian's hyperbolic parody of the most boring electronic pursuit ever. It's virtual cooking. You peruse a recipe, gather the specified items from a pantry (can you mouse over everything to find the matching words before time runs out?), cut and peel vegetables by moving your mouse, and watch a timeline tick by so you can click on the ingredients to add to the frying pan at the right instant. There's no initiative or problem-solving. It's all the glory of being a prep cook combined with all the creativity of following the directions on the back of a Jell-O package.

Why does she love it? Well, when you're five, simply performing actions in the sequence dictated can be satisfying. And lately I've been thinking that I need more of that kind of satisfaction in my life. Since Noel has been gone, I've prepared food for my children at home four out of five nights. Not bad for someone who never cooks when her husband is out home. Since it's a novel chore, I get a much bigger kick out of it than the degree of difficulty warrants. Let's face it: I'm basically doing one level above the minimum required not to have my kids taken away from me by the state.

But just in the same way making my own garments gives me an absurd hit of joy over and above the pleasure of knitting and the comfort of being clothed, preparing dinner -- when you don't have to do it all the time -- makes me feel like a grown-up. Today I wore a sweater I made, solved an internet problem, and put hot food in front of my children. It might not be much -- it might not even be very hard -- but I felt like a superhero.

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