What? You all are hungry again?

You know what? I don’t like to cook. And when it comes to dinner, I think I downright hate it. This is something I just now figured out. I mean, it’s normal not to like cooking at 5:00 when everyone is hungry and whiny and wrapped around your ankle and randomly sobbing. But I think I might not really like it anyway.

I love baking. Cookies, cupcakes, pie, bread, all that. Love it. I’m not sure I’d want to do it at 5:00, but I do love it.

And I love food, and eating. I’m all on board with that. Give me something with roasted garlic or pumpkin or caramelized onions, or bread, or cheese, or spinach, and I’m rapturous. I can certainly look at a recipe and know if I’ll like it. And I’m a decent cook. I mean, I can follow a recipe and even make some substitutions. But I’m not a particularly intuitive cook. I can’t look into our pantry and come up with some concoction of What’s In The Fridge (despite the fact that we often have a meal called just that). I end up making it all separately. Like, we’ll have kale and chicken sausage, so I’ll make a meal of kale and chicken sausage and corn bread. Which is one of our favorite meals, but it’s not like the ingredients are mixed together or anything. Or, you know, I can do a stir fry of whatever’s in the produce drawer, but it’s not like that takes any special forethought. You just chop everything and saute it in a pan. It’s no wonder that my favorite lunch to serve to guests is Make Your Own Sandwich.

Anyway, like I said, this is something I just really realized, and I’m not sure what to do about it, since I’m the main meal maker. I think I’m also just tired of it. I don’t really hate cooking, not really (I don’t think). It’s just that when you’re cooking for four people with slightly different taste, it gets tiring. And every night, when I’m starting to make dinner, I have this feeling of, “Why am I doing this again? I only just did this yesterday!

The only solution I can think of right now is to alternate between cookies and cornbread for dinner.

And why is it that so many of our dinners and dinner components are brought to you by the letter C? Chicken, chicken nuggets, chili pie, cale (ok, that one doesn’t really work), cornbread, cheese ravioli. And whenever I write a grocery list it ends up being an alliterative ode to B: broccoli/bananas/bread/butter(/milk/eggs). Maybe my whole problem is that I need to explore some other letters of the alphabet.

How do you handle the Dastardly Dinner Hour? How do you serve the varying culinary needs of everyone in your household?

Comments (10)

  1. Emily January 14, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    oh gawd yes. I really DO like cooking, baking more I think, but I like it. Except that sometimes if I have to FEED one more person AGAIN I just, I just, I don’t know what. We eat eggs for dinner more than we should. I pretend fancy-it-up by poaching said eggs and laying them over salad/roasted veg if I’ve roasted vegs. this is mom and dad – Wylie eats more leftover pasta/frozen meatballs/froz. veg./nuggets than I’d like.

    I don’t know. My mom, after cooking for years, hating it, finally just stopped..somewhere when I was in college, mind you, and after trip to Italy with dad wherein they discovered olive oil. Then HE cooked. Now, 15 years later, you can tell he’s sick of it too. Makes me think that late-life live in home/apt. where meals are done for you IS the way to go. the feeding of yourself is sometimes celebration, but often chore. Except breakfast. I always like breakfast. maybe that’s what late life will look like: nothing but eggs and baked goods! Ahhhh!

  2. Julie January 14, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Yeah, that’s the thing…I want the kids to be hearty, adventurous eaters, so I am sort of a stickler about feeding them what we’re eating. But none! of! Henry’s! foods! can! touch! and Eli is somewhat random on what he likes. So we end up making ravioli and chicken sausage and broccoli a lot, because that is easily broken down into parts. But it’s honestly not that exciting. I got a slow cooker from Stacey a few weeks ago, and I like it in concept except for us not wanting to eat much meat these days, and the fact that everything you might make in it will be something that cannot be broken down into Henry parts. And it’s honestly so sad when you serve him dinner and he really wants to like it but says with such sorrow, “I don’t like this dinner.” And then we make him chicken nuggets. And I so much don’t want to be someone who makes a different meal for everyone else.

    Except at breakfast, because that’s easy and we are all happy to eat more or less the same thing every day.

    And I am a fan of the poached egg over home fried sweet potatoes and caramelized onions myself, which works also because the boys could eat eggs all day so are very happy to have that for dinner.

  3. Anne January 14, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Yeah.

    I like cooking in general, but what I don’t like is the type of cooking I do 99% of the time: the frenzied weeknight meal. I have zero time to prepare dinner on a weeknight, and it’s a total pain in the tuchas.

    Here’s how I manage.

    First, I don’t raise my expectations too high. My #1 priority is that Sam eats a reasonably healthy and balanced dinner, and often that’s something similar to what you’re serving (we do a lot of chicken sausage!). Most kids won’t care if a meal is boring from an adult’s perspective. I make liberal use of frozen and prepared things within reason: turkey meatballs, Gardenburgers, chicken sausage, lots of frozen vegetables (nothing wrong with that!), those Near East rice mixes. That’s mostly what Sam gets on a weeknight. Fresh broccoli, because it’s fast and easy. I don’t beat myself up for using pasta sauce from a jar, which was hugely frowned upon when I was growing up.

    Second, Pete and I don’t really figure in to the weeknight dinner equation, much as we would like to. I know the ideal is to have a family sit-down warm dinner with most food groups represented on a dinner plate. But for us, it’s just not practical, and we’ve accepted that. I’ll sometimes eat what I’ve made for Sam, but sometimes not. Mostly Sam is just interested in having me sit with him, whether or not I’m having what he’s having. That way I only really have to cook for one person. Pete gets home at 8pm most nights, and he fends for himself for dinner. If there happen to be leftovers of what I’ve made for Sam, he might eat those. But the most important thing is, Pete’s fending for himself and I don’t have to cook for a whole ‘nuther person. Many nights, he (and I) will have PB&J for dinner. But not Sam, since he’s inconveniently allergic to peanuts.

    Third, I accept that dinner sometimes = grazing. Cereal, a handful of grapes, hey-how-about-a-piece-of-bread, etc.

  4. Clog January 14, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    The crockpot that you just got is great. Throw everything in in the morning and when 5 rolls around you just dish it out.
    Always make enough of one meal to cover a couple of days.
    It is tiring — 365 days a year thinking up something to have that is different. You can see why prepared foods became in vogue with the wife going out to work.

  5. Christina January 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I think you and I discussed meal planning services at one point- my mom bought me The Scramble cookbook from the author of the Scramble website and I LOVE it. Good, easy and fairly healthy recipes. They are divided by seasons and you can go online and print out grocery lists for each week. I don’t do that though- I just pick a recipe to make at about 4pm and run to the store (which thankfully is across the street) to get what we need. I wish I could plan out menus for a week and shop only once or twice a week but I just dont seem to be able to think that far ahead. I do however have a very rough menu plan that stays the same: monday- pasta, tues- veggie dish, weds- pizza night (I buy pizza dough at trader joes and make pizzas), thurs- chicken or turkey, fri- fish (pretty much always frozen salmon from costco). Weekends we have meat if Erik wants it- I try to make a roast or lasagna or something if he is home and can watch nora- or we get take out/go out one night. Somehow it helps a little to know “ok- tonight all i have to do is come up with a pasta recipe” versus having to think up any random recipe. And I can buy all the basics (chicken breasts, etc) ahead of time and then just buy the extras on the day I make it. It’s still hard though- I have definately realized that cooking is just not my favorite thing. And it is so impermanent- which as I have said before is one of the most annoying things about being a mother- no immediate result to show for your day once the food disapears! It sounds like you are making great meals for everybody- kale, chicken sausage, etc sounds good to me!

  6. Anne January 14, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Wow, I’d never heard of the Scramble, much less the cookbook. That sounds perfect for us.

  7. Kate January 14, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    I feel like a haggard wreck each night after the dinner hustle and bustle has ended! I long for a day when we can all sit down together for dinner and I only have to cook once. Eggs are definitely on heavy rotation around here and I’ll usually serve them with sauteed spinach and some sort of grain. Leftover couscous seems to work pretty well. The only fly in my nightly ointment is that Ian is allergic to milk, so I always have to tweak the menu slightly to accommodate his allergy. For convenience, the boys like Dr. Praeger’s Little Fishies and they’re pretty easy to make. Morningstar Farms’ vegetable “sausage” patties are also tasty and good to serve along with eggs. I was over the moon about dinner last night: sauteed green squash, small white beans and corn served over tri-color alphabet pasta from Trader Joe’s. Both boys ate huge portions (Hugh’s with cheese, Ian’s without). Sometimes, just sometimes, concocting and cooking a dinner isn’t quite as thankless a task as you’d think!

  8. sutswana January 16, 2009 at 12:14 am

    Frozen shrimp are easy and good sautéed by themselves (garlic, capers…) or to protein-ify pasta. Once we hit the cooking wall and can’t deal, we have soup and tuna nights, with gussied up tuna sandwiches and whatever soup is in a can on our shelves or is easy to make. For this reason I usually have chicken stock on hand. Last thing off the top of my head: for me, any meal that involves corn chips and guacamole is a meal worth eating. When avocados are expensive (i.e. 99% of the time) I buy perhaps equally expensive but storage-friendly, vacuum-sealed, pre-made guacamole. Calvado is good. Never would have even considered this if not for the hearty endorsement (cartside by the avocados, no less!) of a coworker who hails from Mexico and knows a thing or two about good guacamole.

  9. Julie January 16, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I think my expectations might be too high. I need to have the full balance of nutrients at every meal (to atone for the single years in my twenties when I had Pasta with a Few Peas and Butter and Cheese for many dinners, something I have clearly perfected as it’s one of the boys’ favorite meals).

    I am eternally grateful that as of yet I have no food allergies to contend with. My heart’s out to those of you who do.

    I have thought about doing Monday Pasta, Tuesday Soup or whatever, but I never make it past the thinking-about stage. When I have my act together I do make a week’s menu and then shop for those foods, and that helps immensely, but it turns out if you do that you still have to cook the dinner.

    Keep all these tips coming. Frozen shrimp is good. Glad I’m not the only one relying on chicken sausage and eggs.

  10. sutswana January 23, 2009 at 7:49 am

    I’m back in order to report a major coup that took place last night. As you know, my kids are pretty finicky with food. Last night I made a lasagna (with cottage cheese and zucchini, no ricotta, and strangely, it was delicious). The girls caught a whiff of it and announced, “Yay! Pizza!” So I took advantage of this misunderstanding and popped a couple of wheat pita pockets into the toaster, gave them to the girls in triangles, and told them it was a “make-your-own lasagna pizza.” No kidding, they happily assembled it and gobbled it up. Didn’t everyone hear the angels singing at Barberry Creek Road?

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