Monday, August 29, 2011

The Reluctant Chef

I never really intended to be able to write "homemaker" above the "occupation" section of our joint tax forms, but "parenting blogger and budding freelance writer" doesn't fit in the designated space.  Yet, this is the situation I know find myself.  As a "homemaker" it is generally expected that I will plan, shop for, and prepare the family meals.  Individually each step is doable, but the trifecta has proved problematic.

As a consequence my kitchen abilities are weak.  I can read and follow recipes, and I enjoy adventurous food, but I definitely lack the motivation to experiment.

Interestingly enough, before procreating I was an avid reader of cooking magazines and eagerly tested different recipes each month.  If an article touted the wonders of Chinese long beans, I would search the local groceries until locating the mysterious bean.   Words like "braise" and "batonnet" intrigued me, and I devoured biographies on Julia Child and Ruth Reitchl.   However, since the title of "homemaker" found it's way onto my mental business card, I discover myself rotating between the same ten dishes.  It didn't help that my first little offspring's demands of an all-beige diet made it impossible to create one meal for the whole family. 

So, now our small family is in the habit of two separate meal times with two separate meals.  (Although most parenting experts would balk at this, my husband and I actually prefer this set-up.  For me, it allows a moment of calm and sanity after a day of chasing toddlers.)  Nevertheless, we may eat dinner as a family a meager one day a week.  Maisy and Elana eat their carefully separated meal on pink acrylic dinner plates, seated at a primary colored KidCraft table, at 5:45.  Ted and I prefer to eat at 8 o’clock, once the girls are locked in their individual dungeons.  This may be setting them up for a lifetime of ordering butter noodles at fancy restaurants, but at least the adults are able to enjoy a meal without wiping someone’s nose, or scolding a toddler for not eating her veggies.

Still, if this is an area in which I would like to improve, what holds me back?  Here is my list of excuses as to why I am a lazy chef:
  • I can't meal plan- Well meaning friends always wonder why I don't create a plan for the week and do one big shopping trip each week.   My husband's work schedule, most importantly his last minute dinner meetings, make this difficult.  In addition, when we were living in Tokyo I fell into the habit of shopping for dinner each night as I would pass by the local shop on my walk home from the train (Japanese kitchens and refrigerators are much smaller, not able to store large amounts of groceries). 
  • Preparation time- In order to have a nicely prepared meal ready by 6, the latest I could push my two girls, I would need to begin preparing at 4.  This is the time of day I am dying to get out of the house and let the two rugrats run off their last bursts of toddler energy.  
  • Long gone are the days of the dinner party- Prior to children, we used to invite other couples over for dinner and plan elaborate meals.  These days the whole process just makes my head hurt.  Who has time to plan, prep, prepare, and then clean up the aftermath?  
  • I don't want to eat pasta every night- My brain is too exhausted to roam the internet looking for healthy family-friendly recipes that I would actually want to eat.  
  • A trip to the grocery store with two children can be Hell- "No, you cannot have Pirate's Booty."  "Put the Cheddar Bunnies Back."  "We are not buying gummy fruit snacks!"
  • I'm exhausted at the end of the day- At least twice a week the adult dinner will consist of peanut butter sandwiches and carrot sticks.  Somedays the physical and mental exhaustion leave me craving the most basic foods.
  • I like the kiddy table- In all honesty, I really enjoy the time my husband and I have to ourselves eating dinner after tucking the children in.  When we eat as a family, once the kids are down for the night, we immediately begin full relaxation mode, lying on the couch in our pajamas watching True Blood or Damages.  On many days, our "grown up dinner" is the only time we have to talk with just each other.
Since it seems that I am unwilling to compromise on my current regimen, I resolve to come to peace with my picky eaters.  If Elana's list ever gets to 20, I will need to reevaluate my priorities.  For now, I don't mind if they eat the same 32 foods for the next few years.  At least my husband and I can eat our dinner in peace.  That said, I wouldn't mind trying a few adult centered recipes.  Any suggestions?

1 comment:

  1. I like the recipes on Tuesday Recipe -- they are relatively simple but often have an interesting twist. This is my current favorite:

    I put the whole thing on a bed of black rice instead of keeping the rice on the side. And I sauté the onions until they are almost caramelized.