The (un)Joy of Cooking

My Rouses Everyday, September & October 2018

Show of hands: Whose favorite cook is their mom? (…I’ll wait.) My hand is definitely up, along with the hands of the majority of you reading this. And while most of your moms (or dads) may be pretty good cooks, I have to tell you that my mom, Karen Rouse, is a dang good cook. In high school, my friends and I would rotate among our varying houses as to where we would hang out after school. When it was at my house, my friends would stretch their visits longer, in the hopes that my mom was cooking — because if she was, an invitation to stay over for dinner was most definitely in the cards.

I’ll let you in on a secret though: She hates it. Absolutely hates it. She would rather clean the house than cook. (She actually loves to clean. Before you ask — no, I don’t know what’s wrong with her.) Because of her aversion to cooking, and I guess to get back to mopping or Clorox-ing things quicker, she is the first one to cut a corner if it doesn’t sacrifice taste.

When I asked her, when I was trying to learn to cook for myself, how to make Karen Rouse’s delicious chicken & sausage gumbo, she taught me to make my roux using the microwave rather than standing over the stove stirring for a long time. My husband audibly gasped when he learned that most times when she makes her famous rice dressing, she goes to Rouses and doesn’t buy chicken from the meat cooler, but a package of prepared diced chicken that comes in a pouch. On the flip side, if the corner being cut turns into a less tasty dish, she’ll go right back to the beginning and make something from scratch. My mother doesn’t love to cook, but she loves for us to enjoy eating. She loves to see her table full, and the bellies at it getting fuller. And while she certainly loves to see her four kids happy, it pleases her like nothing else in the world to see her six grandchildren devouring her food!

I’m a lot like my mother in a lot of ways, and I hope that her talent for cooking eventually can shine through me. I did feel like I was getting the hang of it up until a few years ago, when life got in the way of having the time to do cooking justice. My three kids came back to back to back in three years, and while they’re easier now than they were about a year ago, between them, their little schedules and our work, it is hard for my husband and me to find time to cook a proper meal.

We’ve been big users of the Rouses meal kits (which feed not only the two of us but the three tiny mouths as well), and we can often be found with two kids in a car-buggy and one kid in a stroller roaming the specialty meat case, looking for something that we can throw on the grill or in the oven with an easy side (frozen veg and a potato or, lately, I’ve liked using some easy-to-prepare boxes of quinoa-based sides). My oldest (he just turned four) is very interesting in cooking, so he always voices an opinion. He also loves to make things from scratch, so he is a perfect motivation for branching back out into cooking more complicated meals in the future, when we are not quite so hunkered down in what I affectionately call “baby jail,” where most of our waking moments are spent making sure no one gets hurt.

Whether or not I inherit my mom’s cooking skills, I know that, more likely than not, my kids will look back fondly on our home-cooked meals when they’re older. Whether it’s 20 minutes or a 2-hour ordeal, the act of creating your own meal at home and sitting down to eat with your loved ones is the quintessential comfort of home. Home cooking truly is food for the soul.