As I was driving back from Market Basket this afternoon, it occurred to me that, for me, shopping for food is very like shopping for clothes. Likewise, cooking is very like getting dressed.
The intricacies of cooking a gourmet meal or putting together a fashionable ensemble are beyond me. I tend to think that cooking/dressing well should be reserved for special occasions (which are few and far between in the sea of quotidian that is my life), so my everyday routine is to do as little as possible. I know that there are some basic items that every kitchen/closet should have, but I don’t know what those basics are (flour? baking powder? black pants? a white shirt?) – let alone how to put them together, and I hardly ever use them anyway, which is weird, since they’re basics. When I’m at the store, I have no idea what to buy because I cannot envision what I will ultimately do with the asparagus except steam it (though I’m haunted by vague images of grilled vegetables bedecked with spices, as seen in women’s magazines) or the long white sweater except wear it with jeans (though I’m haunted by vague images of perfectly accessorized women in long white sweaters, slinky skirts, and gorgeous jewelry, also seen in women’s magazines). As far as originality in the kitchen or the closet, I can imitate something cool once I’ve seen/eaten it, but I rarely come up with something unique myself – I’m always amazed when geniuses like J_H put together things I never would have combined to stunning overall effect (Sour cream in the soup? The blue satin belted shirt with the plaid Catholic schoolgirl skirt? Really?). I tend to stick with a few well-worn and familiar items that are pretty plain, simple, and/or pre-assembled – Trader Joe’s spanakopita, cereal, T-shirts, the long-suffering Skechers that will have to be replaced soon because I have worn them almost every day for four years. And although I have several somewhat exotic ingredients that friends have given me or that I’ve purchased in heady moments (turmeric, eggplant, a yellow sequined scarf, an awesome earring/necklace set), I have no idea what to do with them.
Which is why I requested the services of J_H the shopping and fashion genius this week – I was sick and tired of staring at my closet for ten minutes together without having any idea how to assemble an ensemble with any of the items therein. She showed me so many new ways to combine things that I feel like my wardrobe has more than doubled – even if I wear a T-shirt and jeans, at least I know how to make it interesting.
Now if someone could do that for the kitchen…