Friday, June 5, 2009

What's for dinner?

I can now understand why asking my mom "What's for dinner?" every day drove my mother crazy when I was a kid.

Now that I'm a mom, my kids ask me the same thing and I go batty every time. Something about that simple question taps into my anxiety about cooking. Just like cleaning, it will never be completely done. Just when you finish one meal, it's time to start preparing for the next.

On top of that, I was a very picky kid and I pretty much never liked what we were having for dinner. Now I've got my own picky kid and I can't stand catering to her culinary needs.

Who wants to slave all day over a hot stove only to see her work ignored at meal time? Why cook for kids who won't appreciate my efforts?

I recently attended a cooking workshop in the home of a friend-of-a-friend, led by another friend-of-a-friend, Alma Schneider.

A social worker and amateur chef, Alma started her own business, Take Back the Kitchen, to help women overcome the obstacles to cooking.

Alma circulated a handout, “How Not Cooking Affects Your Life," to the room of mothers looking for some culinary guidance.

“Are you stressed out at dinner time or other times of the day about food or cooking?
“Do you get overwhelmed about bringing a dish to a potluck, bake sale or dinner party?
“Are you envious of friends who seem to be able to ‘whip up’ dishes at a moment’s notice?

Yes, yes, and yes.

The brochure lists “self-limiting beliefs about cooking” and I can relate to nearly every one. In particular: “I can’t cook because I don’t have the ‘cooking gene’ and “I’m so far behind, I can never catch up.”

In her private workshops, Alma asks clients to imagine that you have reached all of your cooking goals and fantasies.

My goal is simple: to be able to cook something edible. But I just get into the kitchen and panic.

Alma shows us how to whip up a few basics (it's not so hard when someone is there guiding me through it). And then she has a handy suggestion for those of us with picky kids at home.

Why not draw up a weekly menu which incorporates foods your kids like and foods they don't like? As long as there is at least one thing you know they'll eat, you don't have to worry that they'll starve.

Try to include dishes that can easily be adapted for picky kids and discerning adults. Then you won't have to cook two separate dinners every night.

So here is what I came up with:

Monday -- "Breakfast for Dinner" - Cheese omelette, toast, turkey bacon and carrots. Fresh fruit. Avo and I can have the same thing, but maybe add a fancier filling to the omelette.

Tuesday -- Mexican night -- Cheese quesadilla with carrots. Fresh fruit. Again, Avo and I can have the same thing, but with a different filling, such as a chicken quesadilla.

Wednesday -- Classic American -- Macaroni and cheese with fish sticks. Fresh fruit and carrots. Avo and I can have catfish instead of fish sticks.

Thursday -- Italian -- Penne and chicken nuggets. Fresh fuit and veggies. Avo and I can have ravioli and chicken cutlet.

Friday -- Japanese -- Rice and edamame. Avo and I will have a Thai stir-fry with tofu and veggies.

The kids seem to like knowing what's for dinner and I like them not asking me!

Sometime soon, I'll feature a Q&A with Alma Schneider, who will share some more tips for conquering your fear of cooking and taking back the kitchen!


Alma Schneider said...

What a creative menu-I knew you could do it! It just takes a bit of a time and energy investment and you are on your way. Can't wait to REALLY get you cooking!

Bernie Bernstein said...

It's me, Mom - (IMM) - I like your idea of planning meals in advance, but your Dad had the idea first. He's been planning, shopping for and cooking our meals for the last 15 to 20 years. I did the first 30 and I told him the next 30 were his. I hated planning, but he's good at it. He does a weekly menu which is quite balanced. So we've divided our duties...he cooks and I clean. Of course I clean up the dishes, pots, pans, stove, floor, etc. Do I really like this arrangement? I guess it's better than doing everything myself. Keep up the good work. You may become domesticated in time.

EAT! said...

Great ideas. I am all for helping families get back to the dinner table - one recipe at a time. Planning is key. If have a few recipes you may like on my blog.

Take care.