Cooking up some guilt: What I wrote to ‘Dear Abby’

I’ve read “Dear Abby” for years and years. Handled the column during my newspaper days. But never felt moved to write a letter to her (or her daughter, who now handles the column) until a couple of months ago.

A young woman wrote in worried about her cooking shortcuts. Neither she nor her husband cared for cooking, both worked outside the home, and she was concerned that she was shortchanging her husband by using boxed mixes here and there. She said he didn’t really care, but she felt guilty.

Abby’s advice to her was simply that yes, she should be concerned and that they should share the cooking chores, which is fine. But I didn’t feel she went far enough. So I went to the website and put in my 2 cents’ worth:

Dear Abby — Re the March 26 letter from the woman worried about her cooking shortcuts — though you gave her good advice, I think you failed to answer her underlying question, which was “Should I be ashamed that I indulge in ‘box’ dinners that take little time to prepare?”

The answer should have been “NO, not when you both are working full time and you are also going to school part time.”

Abby, this woman should not feel guilty for a) not wanting to cook and b) not liking to cook. There are plenty of wholesome alternatives she can serve quickly that aren’t boxed foods (and boxed foods do have lots of salt and preservatives).

A few ideas: Premade salads — rinse the leaves, add some rinsed, drained canned beans and some drained canned tuna or chicken, perhaps some more veggies, serve with a whole-grain roll.

Supermarket delis can provide grilled chicken (whole or parts,) or slices of roast meats, and vegetable sides with few preservatives.

She stated she can cook spaghetti — there are plenty of healthful tomato-based sauces out there, and many pasta variants, including ravioli.

Or take a leaf from the kids: Nothing wrong with a PB&J (or any other sandwich) for dinner, with soup or salad on the side, or the occasional bowl of (unfrosted) cereal, with plenty of fresh fruit.

More important, cooking should be treated like any other household chore and divided (I hope) between her and her husband, just like the laundry or vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom. Perhaps down the road, they can take cooking classes together (or separately) to appreciate the health benefits and economic savings from cooking with fresh ingredients.

But in the meantime, there are small steps they can take to put more variety into their diets, and most important, lessen her guilt. She said she was already cooking meat and veggies to add to the box mixes, so she’s already halfway there.

Me, I love cooking, but even a practiced home cook relies on a box or a jar or a can now and then. Shame should never be part of the menu, IMHO.

I thought surely there’d be a tsunami of other writers on the subject, but I haven’t seen anything so far in print.

Online, of course, a number of readers took Abby to task for much the same reason. The comments boiled down to three basic solutions: a) Get a slow cooker, b) subscribe to a dinner service that provides prepared meals, and c) stop feeling guilty!

What do you think? And if you have any dinner-on-the-table shortcuts to offer, I’d love to see them.

(c) copyright 2015 Laura Groch


One thought on “Cooking up some guilt: What I wrote to ‘Dear Abby’

  1. I used to be famous (according to my daughter) for upgrading frozen dinners – mostly pastas with pretty good sauces. I’d add shrimp or chicken and fresh veggies – red and/or yellow bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions. Defrost several boxes; throw them into a large casserole; add meat and veggies. Pop in microwave – voila! Everyone loved them. Also, Trader Joe’s has some great sauces to add to pasta, rice and/or meats.
    Agree with you 100 percent. Absolutely no reason for guilt. (Wonder if her husband feels guilty?)


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