Cooking dinner is the bane of my existence.
I have a somewhat adversarial relationship with food in the first place.
(Even stating that I have a “relationship” with food is problematic, am I right?)
Food is supposed to be fuel and yet, I sound like I’m in an unhealthy dating relationship with it, as if food were an abusive boyfriend who alternately insists I eat a plate of raw carrots and celery for dinner or tells me I’m fat while we share a big bowl of barbecued potato chips or prepares me fudge frosted brownies with sprinkles on top and encourages me to lick the plate. You may know what I mean.
Anyway. I try not to fry food and eat hamburgers without buns and choose salads. But . . . brownies. It’s complicated.
And then I have five other people to feed every day.
Here are some of the restrictions I juggle as I consider what to cook for dinner.
Person one: Doesn’t like vegetables, isn’t thrilled about pasta, has a sensitive tummy which can’t handle beef or pork or cheese or milk. Likes buttered bread with meals but doesn’t care for biscuits or scones or muffins or cookies. Prefers rice with a sauce. Only iceberg lettuce. No tomatoes. Likes fried food. DOES NOT LIKE BURRITOS. (This makes no sense to me.)
Person two: Likes pasta of any kind but not a lot of meat. Eats some vegetables. Not terribly picky. Used to refuse pizza and spaghetti because of the red sauces. Loves canned tuna with fervor.
Person three: Drinks gallons of milk. Loves my potato salad except tonight because the pickles were “too crunchy.” Can detect the slightest difference in spices or texture and does not like change at all. If one spice is altered, refuses to eat dish. Does not like baked potatoes because they are “too much work.” No vegetables and will only eat salad if there are croutons–and not just any croutons, but the “right” croutons and ranch dressing. Does not like fruit or sweets.
Person four: Just became a vegetarian. Will eat vegetables and any baked good. Likes coffee. Usually eats dessert first. Will eat pasta but not casseroles or anything spicy. Hates rice.
Person five: Refuses to eat chicken cooked in the CrockPot. Confided that his friend’s mom’s mashed potatoes are a lot better than mine because they are creamier. Eats Taco Bell food but refuses my homemade soft tacos. Most likely to ask, “What’s for dinner?”
I feel like those descriptions don’t fully express the difficulties. Or maybe I’m just a wimp.
Here’s an example. Something like eggs and bacon for dinner should be simple except that some like their bacon really crisp and some like it softer. Some like fried eggs over easy and some like them over hard. Some want them scrambled with lots of pepper. Some hate pepper. Personally, I want a lot of vegetables in an omelette but no one else really digs the vegetables or omelette thing. Some want the egg cooked in a circle cut out of bread (“egg toast”). To toast or not to toast? That is the question. I spend an hour cooking eggs in various styles and burning my hand on bacon grease.
They are a diverse bunch and they will not eat celery with peanut butter or yogurt with granola or a giant chef’s salad. So if I want those things, first I make things they will eat because God forbid they eat raw vegetables or whole grains.
Oh sure. I should insist that this crew learn to cook dinner and take turns. I should have put the food before them and insisted that they eat it. I should have introduced spinach before apple juice and I should have always offered slivered raw carrots and celery with hummus at every meal.
But I didn’t. (Plus, I married a guy who grew up eating southern cooking and I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where we did not and he’s, uh, particular about food and I am not his mother, so there.)
So each afternoon, I wonder what I should make for dinner when all I really want to do is go for a walk, eat a big salad and read a novel. And I don’t actually want help in the kitchen because I prefer to work alone–and stop trying to solve my problems or point out my inconsistencies because I just want to complain, is that a crime? If so, please lock me up because then, I will not have to cook dinner.
(I do actually like to cook. I just don’t like to cook DINNER EVERY NIGHT. It’s so relentless and boring and time-consuming and thankless and repetitive and besides that, I’ve been cooking dinner for twenty-seven years, going on twenty-eight and isn’t that long enough?)
To answer your inevitable question . . . I have no idea what’s for dinner. Isn’t it enough that I came up with dinner yesterday?