Forget cook-it-yourself meal boxes bursting with spiky, hairy vegetables that scare the cat. Every tired woman knows the best path to dinner involves minimal preparation, especially in summer when our hot flashes could power a dozen induction cookers and the A/C is on the fritz again.
Our lives would be all sunshine and salsa if a food truck bearing tacos and nachos made the rounds through the neighborhood like the ice cream man did when we were six. We would wait at the corner every evening in our Deadpool T-shirts and lounge pants and hand over a sweaty 10-dollar bill to satisfy that jalapeno pepper passion. Sure, it means putting on pants, but elastic is forgiving when it comes to cheese dip.
“But my mom always cooked dinner at night, even when the house was 100 degrees!” Go to Grandma’s house for supper right now, and she’ll throw a pack of hot dogs at your head on her way out the door to Zumba class. For everyone else, here’s a handy chart for easy summer meals.
Grilling: Relatively easy, because your husband is cooking, right? Sure, he’ll take credit for that steak or burger, but you’ll still have to provide a side dish that doesn’t have DORITOS in large print on the bag. Also, he’ll somehow mess up every plate and utensil you own even though he’s cooking outside. Easy factor: 2
Neighbors grilling: It’s close and it’s free, but Helen puts raisins and chia seeds in her potato salad. Also, did their poodle just lick all the steaks before Ron put them on the grill? Has he had his shots? Has the poodle had her shots? How much Pepto-Bismol do we have in the house at this very moment? Easy factor: 3
Going out for dinner: There’s a limit to how many times you and your sweetie can say “Where do you want to go? I don’t know. What do you want to eat?” to each other before you consider divorce. That limit? Sixty-seven, although legal separation is indicated at 50. Also, you would have to put on pants, and not those you wear backwards as you rush out to the taco truck. Easy factor: 5
Gas station food: Sandwiches, chips and soda, and you can probably not wear pants if you want. You should, though, because do you really want those thighs on someone’s security footage? Also, those hot dogs sweltering on the tiny carousel triggers flashbacks of visiting Disney World in August after a thunderstorm. Easy factor: 7
Cupboard roulette: Truly painless meal preparation involves serving up a peanut butter sandwich and kicking back in the recliner to watch Iron Chef. If those guys can make a five course meal in an hour, we can come up with something at half past No Time to Thaw to put between two slices of clearance-aisle bread without overworking any complicated appliances. We may not have spiralizers or bourbon-smoked pepper, but we have a butter knife that can spread creamy or crunchy faster than you can say “You’ve been chopped.”Easy factor: 8
Angels bearing pizza: Forget flowers; the biggest way friends and family can earn forgiveness with us is a square box filled with that round, cheesy delight. It appears by magic; we didn’t even have to search the kitchen drawers for out-of-date menus or argue over toppings. If it has enough veggies, call it a salad. Grab a roll of paper towels and there are no dishes to wash afterward. It’s the ultimate summertime dinner hack. Easy factor: WIN
— Amy Mullis and Beth Bartlett
You can find Amy Mullis in a kudzu-covered corner of South Carolina with a take-out menu in one hand, speed-dialing pizza delivery with the other. Find more “how could that happen” moments in Laugh Out Loud, a collection by 40 women humorists from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Freelance writer and humorist Beth Bartlett believes the world would be a better place if we all ate more pizza. Her work has appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, The Belladonna Comedy, Writer’s Digest and more. Catch up with her at www.egbartlett.com.