“Hi Ima, what’s for dinner?” my kids greet me as they climb into the car at the end of the day. I’ve almost trained them to say “Hi Ima, how was your day?” first. Almost. In fact, now they’ve learned to circumvent the process by asking in the morning before they leave.
Why does such a simple question inspire such dread? What is it such a torment? I run a cooking website for heaven’s sake! (www.gourmetkoshercooking.com, in case you don’t know) I come up with new dinner recipes on a weekly basis. I think about creativity and colors, nutrition and variety. So why, at the end of the day, do I only want to think about the number of the pizza place?
Maybe it has something to do with routine, the need to make a meal every night – same time, same place. Maybe it’s the responsibility – everyone’s relying on me to stave off their ravaging hunger (I won’t let my kids use the expression “I’m starving” because it so does not apply to our lives!) at the end of the day, to provide a meal that will be both delicious and satisfying.
Usually I succeed. But not always. And it’s a constant pressure.
Perhaps I’ve raised their expectations too high. My daughter still remembers fondly the great dinner of Cream of Wheat she had a friend’s house when she went there to study. But when I try to have IHOP night – you know, pancakes, vegetarian sausages, eggs – they turn down their noses. And no one falls for grilled cheese even when I call it Croque Monsieur.
Sometimes I just feel burdened by the responsibility. Sometimes I jus want someone else to make dinner. (My husband will do Sunday nights in a pinch or if it’s on the barbecue!) Sometimes I just can’t think of what to make – “Noodles, sauce and cheese again?” Sometimes I’m too hot or too tired or too grouchy. But, having got all that off my chest, most of the time I take pleasure in it.
We enjoy having dinner as a family, discussing the news of the day, both international and personal (although my husband never seems to remember the right names of the right child’s friend leading to some moments of frustration – and humor!) and spending a little down time together (blackberries, cell phones and landlines are off limits!).
And most of the time I get it right – the food is good, the customer satisfied. I still haven’t figured out the amounts (slow learner) and I either make too little when it’s popular or too much when it isn’t. And there is frequently a fussy child (not always the same one) who chooses the cereal and milk option.
But in general I guess it works. In general, there is really nothing to dread. In general I take pleasure both in feeding my family and in their enjoyment of the food. So I’ll stop griping, put on my apron and start chopping some vegetables – minestrone soup, anyone? I’m grateful to have an appreciative family to cook for. And it’s someone else’s turn to clear the table tonight.