Mapping Dinner

Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

When I was a kid, my dad was on the road a lot. He travelled all over the country painting for carnivals. Before each trip, he’d flip open his big Rand McNally travel atlas and trace out the route from our house in the mountains of New Mexico to a ride manufacturer in Texas or a dusty little lot in Iowa or a winter quarters in Arizona. His blunt finger would move over the blue and red lines on the map and he’d tell me about a good truck stop in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a particularly nice waitress in Arkansas, or a roadside attraction he’d like to see in Colorado Springs. He’d plan out his trip so that when he climbed into the seat of his truck, he knew how many days’ drive it was to his destination. He knew how many times he’d listen to the same Willie Nelson cassette tape and how long it would be before he could get a good plate of biscuits and gravy.

I thought about my dad and his atlas today when I cleaned out the refrigerator. I tossed out a head of cauliflower speckled with black mold, a bunch of parsley wilted beyond recognition, and an almost full container of sour cream. I found a couple of mushy leeks that may still be saved and some beets I’d forgotten about entirely. I blame the demise of so much good food on my lack of a plan. I’ve got no household road map.

My goal is to take stock and make a plan. I want to eat through the cans and bags that fill my cupboards. I want to reach the end of the week with an empty refrigerator and no wilted greens. I want to shop with purpose and feed my family good things. (Also, I don’t want to make myself too crazy.) I’m starting small. I took a look at what’s in the cupboard and tonight we’re having pumpkin soup (can of pumpkin) with caramelized leeks (those that aren’t too mushy) and a side of roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts. We’ve got half a baguette left over from yesterday and it will be just the thing to soak up the soup. Tomorrow, I’ll figure out what to do with a box of quinoa, the heavy cream with a fast-approaching expiration date, the beets, and a proliferation of canned smoked trout. And I won’t go back to the market until I’ve got a good idea of my route.

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