Cooking For One: Man Vs. Food

Cooking for one is HARD. It’s astonishingly difficult. It’s as difficult as, say, juggling flaming chainsaws, or playing the banjo, or avoiding carbs. To clarify, cooking in general is not hard. I love to cook. I’m the male version of Julia Child (this of course, is not true. Guy Fieri is the male version of Julie Child). I just can’t cook for one. It’s impossible. I have yet to successfully cook for one person.

Guy Fieri is my spirit animal.

Guy Fieri is my spirit animal.

Issue #1: No motivation
If you’re cooking for yourself along with others (your SO, your kids, your freeloading best friend), you’re motivated to cook. So you do it. Whether you’re heating up salisbury steak for your kids on a school night (shout out to Karen, the greatest mother in the world!), making duck l’orange for a romantic evening with your Sig-O, or reheating some 4 day old mac-n-cheese for your mooching friend (because he doesn’t deserve anything better), it’s always easier to cook for others.

But when you’re all by yourself, there is hardly any motivation. Just think of all the pots and pans you have to wash after making a meal for just one person. And when you’re by yourself, you have to do the cooking and the cleaning. What’s up with that??? The world is not fair. And all that work for one lousy meal. But of course, it’s not going to be just one meal…

Issue #2: Cooking way too much
This is the bigger problem. I love to cook, so I’m often ok with all the cleaning I have to do. But I can’t figure out portions. Like at all. Sure, making a little extra so you have a lunch tomorrow is fine. But I’m talking about having breakfast, lunch, and dinner taken care of for the next week. “What’s for lunch tomorrow, Greg?” “Chicken and pasta!” “How about dinner?” “Chicken and pasta!” “And for breakfast the next day?” “Eggs! …and chicken and pasta!”. I don’t want to waste food (because I’m not Richie Rich), so I’m determined to eat everything I cook. And because my freezer is only so big, I have to eat all my leftovers right away. It’s distressing. A month ago, I made enough soup to feed an entire orphanage. Sorry kids, I ate it all myself. But it took a month.

Cooking too much pasta

I’m trying really hard to figure out portions. But I’m not good at the maths. A recipe says “serves 4” so I think, “ok, just divide everything by 4”. What the heck is 2/3 cup divided by 4??? I HAVE NO IDEA. And frankly, I don’t think anyone knows. Or I think, “I really love chicken and cheese enchiladas so I’ll make the entire batch.” WRONG. No one likes enchiladas when it’s your eighth day in a row eating them. And then you don’t want to eat them again for months and by then, you forget the mistake you made last time and you do it all over again.

Issue #3: The cost
Being a single guy, I have only my income to pay for my eating habits. You might think, “this may be true, Greg, but you only have to feed yourself.” Yes, you are correct. But as you will see, I’m weird. This cost issue is exclusively held by me. I have no one to blame but myself. Because in theory, cooking for one should be relatively inexpensive. Especially if you’re doing the cooking.

It’s universally agreed upon that cooking at home is almost always cheaper than eating out. I grew up in a house that rarely ate out and I am insanely grateful for that. I wasn’t raised with this expectation that we get to hit up Olive Garden every Tuesday. As an independent adult, this benefits me in two ways:

  • I don’t feel the need to eat out constantly. Because I never got used to it, the idea of eating out rarely crosses my mind. The temptation is hardly there.
  • I don’t ever go to Olive Garden. Let’s face it, Olive Garden sucks. I’m 99% convinced that the only “cooking” those guys do is buy a whole bunch of Stoeffer’s frozen lasagna from Wegmans, scrape them off those cheap plastic trays, nuke them for the required time, scrape them onto a plate, and then ask you if you want grated cheese on that. If Olive Garden is fine dining, then my crappy 10 year old Honda Civic is a luxury SUV.

Anyway, where were we? Oh right. So we all agree that it’s cheaper to eat at home. But for me, that’s not always the case. Partly due to issue #2 outlined above – I make a ton of food that I struggle to finish. It’s also due to me being a total food snob. But not the cool kind of food snob. I’m the obnoxious kind.

I’m the kind of food snob that thinks table salt is a sin and I refuse to use anything other than coarse Kosher salt or Mediterranean sea salt. I have three different types of paprika. I have 10 different types of oil. That’s right, TEN. I judge anyone that doesn’t cook on cast iron. I don’t buy chicken pieces. I buy the whole chicken and separate it myself. I know when to cook with sweet onion vs white onion. And I must have that dry-aged USDA Prime 1.5 inch-thick cut of rib-eye steak with beautiful marbling, rather than a perfectly acceptable USDA Choice sirloin steak.

Anton Ego is my spirit animal.

Anton Ego is my personal food hero.

I’m just not satisfied eating ramen, Wegmans spiral mac-n-cheese, and frozen ravioli (although I like all three of those). I like to apply effort, style, and skill into my cooking (unlike these people). I’d like to think that my palate is somewhat refined.

Some people spend all their money on clothes. For others, it’s the latest technology, or cars, or perhaps travel. For me, it’s food.  But for this third issue, I’m not looking for sympathy. This is my cross to bear. If I was hurting financially, there are a hundred ways I could save money in my food budget. I just choose the more expensive route of food shopping.

The Benefits
It isn’t all bad, though! There are some good things about cooking just for myself.
1) I get to eat whatever I want, when I want. I pick the menu and I pick the time I eat.
2) I get to eat as much as I want. I don’t have to share if I don’t want to.
3) I get to experiment with some new recipes and ingredients and when I royally screw up, no one knows.

Overall, if cooking for one is the most stressful part of my life right now, I guess things are pretty good. I should probably calm down.

Are you also cooking for one? What issues do you encounter? Are those issues making you a little sad? Don’t worry, here’s a link to a recipe for a single chocolate chip cookie!

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The Things I’ve Learned Since Getting Engaged.

Christine and I rock the whole engagement thing.

Christine and I rock the whole engagement thing.

There are innumerable articles and books on what men (and women) have learned/noticed/loved/hated/whatever since getting married. But for some reason, no one writes about what it’s like when you get engaged. I’m sort of surprised, actually. Where’s the love for engagements? Why is it that no one appreciates them?

Here’s why the place for engagement love is a black abyss of emptiness: Engagements are usually defined as being mere “waiting” periods for the next stage (i.e. marriage). Well, I say “hogwash!”. Engagements are great all on their own! Yes, they’re cool for being precursors to something better. But my engagement has been incredible for a lot more than just that. I may be in the minority, but being engaged has been unequivocally life-changing for me. And I don’t want to hear the response, “Just wait until you’re married! It’ll be even more life-changing!” Duh, I know. Thanks Captain Obvious. I think it goes without saying that marriage is life-changing. This post is not about marriage. Marriage is like the youngest child of the family – it gets all the attention. Engagements are like the middle child – always forgotten.

Talking with other people, I most often hear how  the anxiety and impatience they felt were the only things they took away from their engagement. If there was one positive thing they could possibly take away from that time, it would be the feeling of anticipation for the upcoming nuptials. And of course I have that same feeling of anticipation. I can’t wait for my wedding either! But Christine and I are experiencing our engagement in a way that isn’t one dimensional at all. For us, it’s been fun, exciting, and above all, educational! Simply put, it’s been straight up awesome.

My life has been completely upended (in a totally good way) since asking Christine to marry me back in February. I’ve been a complete idiot in my past relationships. I have been at some crazy low points where I deserved nothing good and no one special (shocking, I know). I’ve had to climb out of some seriously deep holes that I dug all on my own. So when that moment came, the moment where I got down on one knee, looked into the eyes of the most incredible woman of my entire life, asked her to be my wife, and she said yes, this indescribable feeling of joy swept over me. What redemption! Here is a woman who loves me as much as I love her, an insanely beautiful, talented, special woman who actually wants to spend the rest of her life with me! Whoa! I am so blessed!

This is the exact reason why my engagement is as significant as any other season I will ever experience in my life. This is why I will never see my engagement as “just a waiting period”. Maybe for you engagements aren’t that big of a deal, but they certainly are for me.

OK, enough mushy stuff. Ew. Time to be funny! Here’s what I have learned since getting engaged.

1) Sex is something we can now talk about.
This is something that apparently can’t be talked about with single guys because no one has ever said anything on the subject other than “No premarital sex!” to me before. Now that I’m engaged, it’s like I joined a secret society where sex is freely talked about. But I’m being treated like my dad treated me when I was 10 when he gave me the birds and the bees talk. People, I’m 28. I got this.

Married couples are hilarious too. Hearing them drop hints about how great the sex will be when we’re married always makes me laugh. They clearly have one rule, though – you can’t use the word “sex”. That word is clearly taboo because it’s being replaced with phrases such as, “in the bedroom” or “relations of the intimate nature.” Has anyone else noticed this?

2) Wedding planning can actually be fun and stress-free
I am disappointed in all you married people who complained to me about how stressful your wedding planning was, or warned me that it would be hectic and overwhelming. You’re all wusses. Christine and I are having a blast. We’re doing our best to not procrastinate and stay under budget, and are being rewarded for our efforts. We’re enjoying every aspect of the planning. And it’s so cool seeing how creative and talented Christine is. Pretty much the entire wedding is planned and designed by her.

3) Referring to someone as your fiancée sounds incredibly pretentious
Why is it that it sounds perfectly fine to say, “My girlfriend and I…” or “My wife and I…”, but when I utter the words, “My fiancée and I…”, I sound like a snooty braggart who’s trying to make you feel bad for not having anyone in your life.  I really enjoy referring to Christine as my fiancée so I’m sorry for my obnoxiousness. Wait a minute…no I’m not.

4) No one knows how to spell fiancé or fiancée.
I know, I know. I’m crazy about correct spelling. But it’s time we get this right. If you’re a dude and you’re engaged, you are referred to as a fiancé. If you’re a lady and you’re engaged, you’re referred to as a fiancée. Let’s get it together, people. The word is French in origin and the “ay” sound at the end is indicated by an accent aigu (é). The masculine of the word ends with a single “é”, but the feminine variation adds another “e” (ée). Be smarter, kids! On a similar note, it’s “resumé”, not “resume”.

5) Getting engagement/bridal shower presents is awesome.
I don’t think anything more needs to be said than that, but I will say that Christine and I feel insanely blessed with the generosity of our friends and family. We feel so much love and support, and so we thank all of you! Also, no one got the power drill off the registry. Can someone get on that, please? We have enough towels and plates. Where’s the fun stuff?

presents-presents-everywhere

OK, let’s wrap this up. My advice to all you current and future engaged couples out there is to enjoy your engagement! Cherish it! Take advantage of that time to learn about your future spouse, and for him or her to learn about you. It’s a temporary moment in our lives and that makes it unique. Years from now, when I look back at my engagement, I won’t remember it as a whirlwind of stress and anxiety, but instead as a time of excitement and fun!

The Hard Life of a Bearded Man

beards1

Everyone finds something about themselves to justify playing the victim once in a while. You see it all over Facebook, Twitter, and the like. The whole “woe is me!” bit. I honestly scoff at 90% of the gripes you see on these social networking sites. No one feels bad that you had to wait a whole extra 10 minutes for your food at Chipotle. No one cares that the jerk cut you off in traffic. I certainly do not sympathize with someone who is “sick of the weather”. I feel nothing for these people.

I, however, deserve your sympathy. I am truly a victim. Please, gather ’round and feel sorry for me. For I, Gregory, am a bearded man.

I have had a beard for over a year now and I am constantly being attacked because of it. The questions, the comments, even the complaints, are unceasing. So I have chosen to write this blog post to address the typical questions and comments I receive on a daily basis. If someone chooses to ask me something on the list again, I will simply refer them to this post. And any of you that read this wonderful post are hereby forbidden from ever bringing up these questions/comments again in my presence.

1) Is it real?
I am offended by this question. The insinuation is that I either painted it on or received a “beard transplant” (which I heard is an actual thing). I won’t even dignify this question with an answer.

2) Can I touch it?
Dear God, no. Your hands are filthy. Go away.

3) Does your fiancée hate it?
I am a man! I live by my own rules! No woman tells me what to do! …

…I’m kidding. If Christine told me to shave it immediately, I would do so. I am so whipped. But, lucky for me, she loves my beard. And so I have just four words to say to all you men whose wives/girlfriends have forbidden you from growing a beard: sucks to be you!

4) Does it itch?
Let me answer that by asking you this: does it matter? I look awesome.

5) Does it get too hot in the summer?
Let me answer that by asking you this: does it matter? I look awesome.

6) Will you ever shave it?
When I’m good and ready. And not a second earlier.

I saved my most despised question/comment for last…

7) Do you watch Duck Dynasty?
Every person who asks me this thinks they’re hilarious. I have news for you. You’re not. You’re the 100th person to say it. Very unoriginal. Plus, do you really think I look like this????
Duck-Dynasty

 

I understand that like with any victim, there comes a time where you can no longer wallow in self-pity, but instead pull yourself up by your bootstraps, stop being sorry for yourself, and move on. Well, I’m not going to do that yet. I am not ready to move on. I’m going to milk this for as long as I can. For now, I will continue to be a bearded, pity party-hosting victim.

I am willing, however, to accept new, unique, and legitimate beard-based questions or comments. Show me what you got!

 

5 Really Good Reasons to Leave Your Church

A friend recently shared an article written by blogger and pastor Aaron Loy, titled “5 Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church.” It was a solid article and I encourage you to read it. Whether you agree or disagree with any or all of his reasons, it will undoubtedly challenge you to not be so quick to judge your church and hightail it out of there. Loy writes in the opening paragraph that there are indeed some good reasons to leave a church, but there are many bad reasons as well. As I was reading through the bad reasons, I started thinking, “What exactly are some good reasons to leave a church?”

Well, fear not, because after some serious prayer and meditation, I have compiled some legitimate, reasonable justifications as to why your current church might not be a good fit. If any or all of these following reasons apply to your situation, it may be time to flee.

1) The pastoral staff don white robes and hoods each Sunday morning.
You accidentally joined the KKK. Get out. Now.

2) On at least one occasion, you’ve been forcibly sent on a missions trip.
If you’ve woken up in a daze, finding yourself in the middle of the Amazon jungle or the Serengeti of Kenya with a Bible in one hand and a “Missionary Work for Dummies” book in the other, that rascally church family of yours has done it again. They’ve drugged your coffee during a “fellowship time” and put you on a plane to go do the Lord’s work in a third world nation. Further the kingdom, brother!

3) The board of elders is the official (and only) matchmaker.
Have your eye on that cute boy who plays piano on the worship team and works with orphans, eh? Well too bad. Elder Fitzsimmons has heard from on High that you were meant to marry Billy, that sweet, cross-eyed fella with the lisp. You two will have beautiful children, I’m sure.

4) Children’s Church participates in the Hunger Games each Sunday.
Have you noticed your daughter practicing sword fighting techniques or archery during the week? Is your son’s nickname Peeta? Have parishioners come up to you expressing their willingness to sponsor your child? It’s because your offspring just might be selected to represent their district come Sunday morning. May the odds be ever in their favor.

5) Your tithe and offering contribution amount is not decided by you.
Offering plates are not passed around. You do not choose how much you will give this week. Oh no, you couldn’t possibly be trusted with that responsibility. Instead, you must surrender your wallet to the nearest usher. He will decide how much you should give this week. No cash on you? That’s ok, a blank check will suffice. It’s all God’s anyway, so look cheerful!

Other possible reasons include: Your worship team is actually a Journey cover band; bake sales are forbidden because sugar is “from Satan”; your pastor received his theology degree via an online program run out of Bulgaria; or your pastor believes that a baptism isn’t legit unless the intending baptizee has been held under for a good minute and a half.

Do any of those apply to your church? Can you think of other good reasons to leave your church? Feel free to share them!

Please Proofread

I honestly don’t understand how grown adults can confuse “your” and “you’re”. It astonishes me. We’re talking about the most elementary of grammar rules. This is first grade material here.

Clearly I do not hesitate in making fun of people that mess that one up. I can be downright nasty. I don’t hold back. I’m cruel and I apologize.

Wait a minute… No I don’t. I do not apologize. You people need to get it together. This is something you learned in elementary school. Probably around the same time you learned that the capital of our nation is Washington, D.C. I’m guessing you remember what our capital is. So how did you forget the difference between “your” and “you’re”?

After all that ranting, I’ve given it more thought. Maybe that isn’t the case. Maybe you do know the difference. The real issue, then, is that you don’t proofread. For those of you that are really struggling right now, click here for the definition of “proofread”. But seriously, how hard is it to just look over the sentence you wrote a couple of times before moving on? Is your facebook post that urgent that it can’t wait 10 more seconds before you post it? Unless you’re warning someone that they’re on fire, it’s inexcusable.

If I see that I have a facebook notification and it says, “Yo, dude, your on fire”, I probably won’t be mad. I’ll be like, “Man, I have great friends who care about me.” And then I’ll douse the flames and take my bro out for a pizza.

But if I get another notification and it says, “Hey man, there’s a new movie out with Ryan Reynolds in it. Your going to love it.”, no, I will not love it because first of all Ryan Reynolds is a terrible actor and also because you can’t use the correct “you’re”. And then I’ll unfriend you because not only do you apparently like Ryan Reynolds, you also can’t proofread (I’m sure Ryan is a nice guy, but his movies are horrendous).

For those of you that don’t make this mistake, I bet I have all of you nodding your heads in agreement and yelling out “Amen!” once in awhile. Don’t deny it, I know you’re doing it. I’m yelling out random Southern Baptist words of agreement myself and it’s my own post.

The morale of the story is to just proofread. That’s all I ask. Everyone makes mistakes, I get that. Heck, I’ve made mistakes before too (no, I haven’t). But if you all just start looking over your amazing works of literature once or twice before submitting it to the world to read, I might just be able to scroll through my facebook news feed without banging my head against the wall for once.

Oh, and do me a favor and work on “there”, “they’re”, and “their” as well. Thanks.

Coldplay Is Not A Worship Band

About a year ago, I was at a church meeting for youth and young adult leaders from churches throughout the area, and a local worship team kicked it off with a few songs. Much to my chagrin, I heard the band transition from Desperation Band’s “I Am Free” to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”. Oh yes. That actually happened. True story.

I get it. You’re young. You’re hip (do people say “hip” anymore?). You don’t want to go to one of those stuffy, old people churches where they play songs from 50 years ago. You don’t want to hear music written by people with last names like Carpenter and Green. You’d prefer music written by people with last names like Cyrus, or Levine, or Gaga (not a real last name) (none of the aforementioned people actually write songs).

So what do you do? You go on that noble quest to find a church that’s a little different. A church that embraces a new concept designed to attract today’s generation. The concept is where contemporary, secular, easy-listening music replaces some or all of the worship music. As long as they’re songs about happiness, peace, and/or love and not Satan, they’re ok. Instead of your usual Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, and Jesus Culture, you have U2, Oasis, and Rush.

I hate to break it to you but Coldplay does not play worship music. When Chris Martin sings, “Look at the stars, look how they shine for you”, it’s a lower case “y” on the “you”, not an upper case. He’s most likely singing about a pretty girl, probably Gwyneth Paltrow (his wife, for those of you less informed). Hate to break it to you, but he’s not singing about Jesus.

Bad news: "Fix You" is not about Jesus fixing us.

Bad news: “Fix You” is not about Jesus fixing us.

I’ve heard two halfway decent arguments in favor of this type of music being played in a church.

1) It fits the theme the pastor is speaking on that week.
Really??? It fits the theme?? Give me a break. You’re telling me that you can’t find a better song than “Let it Be” to match your sermon topic?  If I personally hear that song played before a sermon, the sun will definitely not come up tomorrow.

2) The lyrics and musical style promote love and peace which is what Jesus is all about.
I found a post on a blog written by a guy named Al Di Salvatore (Check it out here) who uses this argument. Here’s what he said:

“Why can’t music be just music. Based on truth and excellence. One of my favorite quotes is by Author Holmes who said, ‘All truth is God’s truth.’ So couldn’t music if it had truth, honesty, brokenness, redemption, love, (sounds like Psalms of David to me) and rising guitar solos and soaring vocals be Worship. Could Non-Worship (secular) Songs be Worship?”

My answer to that question is, “Dear Lord, no!” When Matt Redman and Israel Houghton write their music, their thoughts and their focus is on Jesus. Their goals and motives are to glorify God. When Phil Collins or Sheryl Crow write music, what are their motives? Where is their focus? The bottom line is that these non-worship songs were not written to praise God. The lyrics are not giving honor to Him. No matter how much you try, you can’t make it work. You can’t fit a round peg in a square hole.

The blog post also reveals another flaw in the argument. The author lists specific songs that he thinks are “worshipful” and some of the top ones are written by artists such as the Rolling Stones and Kings of Leon.  Maybe he doesn’t know who exactly the Stones are. Maybe he’s not aware that Kings of Leon wrote a song glorifying promiscuous sex on the same album as the song “Use Somebody” (mentioned in his list).

The glaring issue that this author and many others do not address is the fact that you can’t take the supposed “good” without the bad. You can’t just pick out the fun, happy songs some dude sings and ignore the crude, profane songs that same guy sings, and even ignore the crude, profane lifestyle the artist may lead.

Something tells me this isn't a worship service.

Something tells me this isn’t a worship service.

Whatever argument people want to use to justify why they bring secular music into the church just won’t ever be enough to sway me. Some Christians simply don’t want to admit that they’re just scared of what the rest of world thinks of them and they are so desperate to boost attendance every Sunday morning that they’ll compromise as much as they think they can get away with.

There is no question that music is something special. It can stir up emotions and have an impact in a way nothing else can come close to matching. But if music is so important and influential, how dare we try worshiping to songs written by people who not only are not saved but have meanings behind their lyrics that are often the antithesis of who Jesus is!

I appreciate a lot of non-Christian music, just like everyone else. I love everything from the Beatles to Mumford & Sons (I still loathe Nickelback). I’m not saying that listening to and enjoying secular music is a sin (Nickelback is). What I am saying is that by labeling secular music as “worship”, we’re permitting room for compromise. And that is extremely unwise.

So when you walk into your church next Sunday morning and the band is rocking out to a song by Snow Patrol or Green Day, maybe you should think twice before raising your hands in worship.

A few pointers to leave you with.
1) “Imagine” by Lennon isn’t worshipful even though he says the word “heaven” in the song. You’re trying too hard to make it work. Plus, I haven’t forgiven him for bringing Yoko into the fold.
2) Josh Groban is NOT singing about Jesus in “You Raise Me Up”. He’s not. Just accept that.
3) I understand that you can find Creed’s albums in your local Christian bookstore. Still doesn’t count, I’m sorry.
4) If you need some new tunes to mix things up, there are some incredible lesser known Christian bands out there. Check out Bellarive, All Sons and Daughters, and Gungor. They are amazingly talented and are consistently passionate about Jesus throughout their music and their lifestyles.

What do you think? Do you firmly disagree? Are there bands/songs that you think are exceptions? Does your church jam out to T-Swift and One Direction? Weigh in below!