What’s for dinner

I love to cook.  I find it relaxing, fulfilling, and exciting.  I love to put new flavors together, to start from scratch, to learn new things.  I love listening to onions sizzling in butter, turning our raw vegetables into healthy meals, and above all, I love eating the finished product.

I’m not a natural.  Any skill that I have has come from practice, from trial and error.  I once had a ill-conceived plan to go to culinary school, but thankfully it didn’t work out.  It would have been a disaster.

These days, I’m working harder than ever in the kitchen, and I’m struggling.  I want so badly to get dinner on the table so my little family of three can sit down and eat together.

I’m failing miserably.  

I think part of the problem is that I’m a closet food snob, and I’m simply not happy with just anything for dinner.  I’ve always prepped for dinner by pouring over cookbooks, considering what, exactly, it is that I would like to sit down and savor.  

Another problem is that we are a family that doesn’t eat meat at home.  We start with raw vegetables from our Community Supported Agriculture box, and buy very few processed foods.  These things can make conjuring up a quick and nutritionally complete meal difficult.  

My daughter comes home from daycare hungry.  She’s a picky eater.  She goes to bed early.  

And I only work three days a week!  How, exactly, do other families do it??

Some nights, I bite off more than any of us can chew, and preparing dinner takes forever.  We end up eating way after her bedtime, and by then, she’s too worked up, tired, and crabby to eat anything.  Some nights, she doesn’t want to touch what I’ve made and this, after a night of furious scrambling in the kitchen, makes me feel tired and crabby myself.

Other nights, I hear my daughter and husband laughing in the other room while I struggle to make a dinner that my girl won’t want to touch with a ten foot pole, and I wonder, “What’s the point?”  She’d be perfectly happy to sit down with some crackers and peanut butter – as long as they’re on her Elmo place mat.

Just like mom used to make. Credit: Nola Lopez for The New York Times

But the point is that I want to share good and nutritious food with my daughter.  I hate the idea of her eating convenience foods alone (of course, we’re sitting with her – but we’re not eating) while my husband and I enjoy a delicious and homemade dinner later.  I want to be a “family dinner” kind of family – with all the benefits that come along with that, especially in the years to come.  I want her to eat seasonally with us, to see the vegetables she picks out at our farm transformed into dinner on her plate.  I want to talk about our day and to laugh and make silly faces at each other as the sun sets on the workday.

Last night, I didn’t get dinner on the table before my daughter’s bedtime.  I made dinner for my husband and I after she went to bed.  But for the first time, I managed to think and work ahead.  Today, black bean soup is simmering in the crock pot, hot and ready for us when we arrive home.  

– ALW

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