A sure sign that I don’t enjoy something is when I put off doing it until the very last moment. And that is my problem with making dinner.
It’s not just the preparation part, mind you. It’s the whole process that I loathe. Those who are not responsible for feeding their clan everyday (i.e., most men) can’t understand it. I can hear how my husband would describe it, "What’s the big deal? You put a protein, starch and green vegetable on the table. Abracadabra, dinner!"
Many a time I don’t even think about what to have until 5 p.m. You can do that if you rely on those dreaded processed foods. If I have a freezer full of chicken nuggets, tater tots, garlic bread, peas and corndogs, I know I’m not going to sweat dinner. It’s food the kids love, and it’s freezer-to-table in 30 minutes. Voila!
But if you ever turn on the TV or open a magazine, you know what experts say about feeding our little darlings these nasty chemicals in a box! The very foods I grew up with (TV dinners and frozen French fries) have turned me into the health disaster I am today … apparently.
So maybe one week a month I get the ambition to be a better-than-that mom. I get the ambition to cook! Really cook!
Planning for seven dinners a week means figuring out our activities schedule in advance, so I know how much preparation time I’ll have each night. Then I have to write up a menu for the week and transcribe that menu into a shopping list. Invariably I’ll forget something during the big weekly grocery-shopping trip, which will necessitate multiple visits to the store during the week – the very desperate, last minute trips I was trying to avoid in the first place.
Another annoyance is that when you buy fresh food for the whole week in advance, you have to freeze meats, which means somewhere along the way you have to remember to take the meat out of the freezer and thaw it. When I do remember to thaw, my fridge often sabotages me. You would think putting frozen meat in the fridge 24 hours before you start cooking would be good enough. But oh no. Not in my fridge. It’s on the 36-hour thaw cycle, meaning my ground beef is rock solid after one day of thawing, but brown and stinky after two.
But yes, sometimes the planets do all line up nicely and I manage to get all of the food at the right temperature, all the dozens of ingredients lined up and into my dish at the right time and I make a real dinner! It’s great then. I feel like a pro.
And when I set my ideally planned and purchased, perfectly nutritionally balanced, four-course meal upon our dinner table and call my beloved family to eat, it’s time for the big payoff.
My girls behold the feast that I have plotted and planned (and irrevocably messed up the kitchen for) and they say to me …
"Ewww, I don’t like this dinner! I want macaroni and cheese!"
"Why can’t we have corndogs?!"
And that’s when I know, I really am a mom.