Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Dinner Wars

Dear Dinner,

Let's get something straight: I love to cook. My mother loves to cook.  Her mother loved to cook.

And I love food.  All kinds of food.

And if you ever meet me, you will see right away that mine is not a body defined by judicious and restrained tasting of these meals...

But Dinner - one of these days, you and me are gonna meet on a dirt road in front of a dusty, run-down town at noon.

Every day you taunt me with your inevitability and your intractability. 

"What's it gonna be tonight, Lydia?  Huh?  It better be good. Your husband and your precious children deserve delicious vittles.  Its what they expect from you.  But is it healthy?  Is it organic?  Is it also - affordable?  Is it something that will not only fill their bellies but make them happy?  Will they feel the love with every bite? Can you deliver?  WILL YOU DELIVER? Or will you puss out and make them Annie's macaroni and cheese again?"

Suck it, Dinner. You know you can't be organic and affordable.  That's a f**cking trick question.  I can't hit a home run every night.  It's not possible.  Albert Pujols can't hit home runs every night.  Sometimes Annie's is the best choice.  Its all natural.  And it's that or frozen pizza.  And just tell me - How exactly am I supposed to cook awesome food when I am at swim team practice every night until 7:50pm?  And when I come home my kids are so strung out and tired and whiny and melt down-y that they are barely able to speak English?  It sounds more like this:

"MooooooooommmmeeeeheeeehiiittttmeeeeWahhhhhhwahhhhh!" It takes every ounce of patience and strength that I have just to get them in the house without losing my schmidt.  And then what?  You expect me to make a nice Bearnaise sauce? 

Dinner, you must be out of your damn mind.

Let's say I do hit a home run.  You know what usually happens?  I serve my family a culinary masterpiece that takes technique and imagination and effort to prepare and I ask them: "Well, how is it?"  And they smile and shrug and say: "It's good."

IT IS NOT GOOD.  It's AWESOME.  It's the best damn thing you have ever eaten.  Don't give me shrugs and off-handed "Oh, I guess its good."  Use your words, people.  I want superlatives worthy of the creation you are now eating.  Praise me and my effort.  Pat me on the head and tell me I'm a good girl.  Something.  When I serve hot dogs, I get raves.  When I microwave mini-chicken tacos, you'd think I was Bobby Friggin' Flay.  But when I make a real effort and the result is MAGNIFICENT, inevitably someone asks me for some ketchup.

So why should I bother, Dinner? Riddle me that.

And can we please talk about the grill for a minute?  Everyone always says - "Oh Lydia just grill something!  It's so easy and then there's no mess in the kitchen!"  No. I do not accept that. That's anti-mommy propaganda designed to make me feel worse.  The grill is just another way for you to taunt me, Dinner. 

Because for me to grill some chicken breasts takes a level of strategic planning that my puny, sleep-deprived brain simply can not manage.  If I am outside in the back yard grilling - guess who wants to be outside playing?  That's all fine and good except that I can't serve just chicken on a plate.  There's other crap in the kitchen that must be occurring simultaneously - the table getting set, drinks getting poured, green beans and brown rice getting cooked.  Who is doing that?  Is it you, Dinner?  Because last I checked you are a non-corporeal pain in my ASS.  So you are actually no help at all.  And you've met my kids right?  I can't be running in and out of the house while grilling.  Because they can't be left unsupervised with fire.  Dinner, you should know that. 

And you know what makes me really angry, Dinner?  It's this notion of what people "feel like" on any given day.  It's hot and humid today and I feel bloated so I want something light - like a spinach salad.  Or it's gray and rainy - can we have spaghetti bolongese?  Or I had a really bad day and I feel yucky, can you make macaroni and cheese from scratch? 

Are you f'ing kidding me?  Dinner, I know you make them do this.  Because we start each week with a plan.  This is the plan: make two "big" meals (that we eat twice) and one quick & easy meal.  For example:

Monday - pasta with grilled chicken, veggies and pesto 
Tuesday - enchiladas with home-made salsa and guacamole 
Wednesday - pasta leftovers
Thursday - enchilada leftovers
NO FORKS FRIDAY - chicken nuggets and random veggies dipped in Awesome Sauce.

Obviously, this order can be switched up.  But then, Dinner, you go and throw some monkey wrench into my planning.  For example, I make enough salsa to feed an army of Mexican banditos and guess what happens?  The Reds go into extra innings and the Cap'n eats ALL OF IT after I go to sleep.  Or notwithstanding the fact that my kids have loved the pesto/pasta thing about a trillion times, they decide they will not eat it because it is does not have red sauce.  So there goes my plan.  Awesome.

(Editor's Note: Weekends aren't part of the plan. Because on weekends, the Cap'n is home and he is usually very helpful. In that one of us is responsible for wrangling the Little Terror Suspects and one of us is responsible for dealing with Dinner. When its a more evenly matched fight, Dinner is less of a bully. And depending on how badly our kids are acting during the pre-dinner, low-blood-sugar, wheedling phase, its a toss up as to which job you want. - Lydia)

So when the plan gets shot to hell, I am then forced to be creative and improvise crap to eat at the last minute while my kids are losing their minds from hunger and are trying to raid the fridge and beg for snacks - that will ruin you, their Dinner - all while I am silently cursing the Cap'n for finishing the salsa and not telling me. 

And let's not even talk about the nights when I am so frazzled and exhausted that if I tried to cook I would burn the house down.  Where are you then, Dinner?  Huh?  Are you being nice and making things easy?  No, of course not.  You're making sure that's the day we run out of eggs.  So I can't even "treat" them to breakfast for dinner.  Thanks a lot.

Dinner, my old nemesis.  Why do you make it so hard?  Why do you put me through my paces every night only to have me end up hating every single thing in my repertoire?  I recently wrote down every dinner I know how to cook.  Its a long list and guess what?  I hate everything on it.  I am sick to death of all of it.  So that means I have to learn to make new stuff and that means learning and thinking and if you haven't noticed, Dinner, I am getting dumber every damn day.

So my neighbor Mimi, the Philippina Queena, patiently taught me how to make crispy spring rolls, drunken noodles and adobo pork.  And for a few months, I was inspired again.  I put sweet Thai chili sauce and Sriachi on everything and it was great.  But soon, like everything else, it started to become part of our routine.  And then I heard my kids say things like: "I only like the pork and cilantro dumplings, Mommy.  These are too cabbage-y and yucky."

I blame you for turning them into little culinary ingrates, Dinner.

I think it might be time to officially add your name to the Enemies List.  You and Randy the Laundry Fairy can continue to conspire against me.  But why do you bother?  I'm clearly outmatched in the ongoing domestic battlefield called My House.  And some day - when you least expect it - I will figure you out and destroy your hold over me.  I have managed to lower my family's expectations for everything else I do for them - so guess what's next?  That's right - DINNER.  Soon there will come a  time when they'll be happy with a ham sandwich and when I cook a big meal, I will enjoy cooking again...  

And then you will know defeat at the hands of Lydia.

Your nemesis, Lydia

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