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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  1. Laughing so hard, I almost can't comment! :) It's good to know I'm not the only one who has Dinner on her hit list. Thank you again, ladies, for the truth through humor. After all the cooking I've done recently (and the ensuing lackluster reactions), I needed this post. :)

  2. OMG, I totally agree. DINNER is my nemesis also. (also his brother and sister, BREAKFAST and LUNCH). My kids take so long to eat that by the time i have coerced, begged, bribed and totally lost my schmit at them, its time to start the planning, preparing and bargaining regarding the next meal. its enough to go out of my ever-loving mind.... if you ever find a solution, im first on the list. p.s... i tried to convince them that cheese on toast was an *awesome* treat, but they didnt fall for it. ho hum. pasta it is.

  3. I was literally laughing/crying while I read this aloud to my husband...
    *granted its been a total shit storm of a day with my two toddlers and there has been about a half bottle of tequila consumed* it was a great post... cheers :) Thanks for making me laugh for the first time today.

  4. Oh. My. Heck! Totally on the nose again! You've captured Dinner in 2000 words. You are awesome!

  5. Oh. My. Dinner is the bane of my exsistence. I've gotten away with a lot of NOT doing it because of work... but I just took another job and I'm PETRIFIED of the constraints of "doing dinner" Every. Single. Day. ARGH! I think I might hire someone. THat's the point of having a double income, right?!?!?!?

  6. Yeah, I HATE dinner. Picky 3 year olds and unappreciative dads make cooking dinner the least rewarding task ever. And the line about the ketchup, that killed me. Because I have gone to battle with my family over that damn bottle of ketchup!

  7. I LOVE IT! I have 2 words for you....CROCK POT! Put the food in the morning and walk away. Come back and dinner time and dinner is served. I work full time, so in order go get the FAM to each something good, I use it twice a week and then we have always have leftovers!

  8. The problem with Dinner is that you have to "plan ahead" - whatever that is. Listen - I went to one of the premier culinary schools in the country and I STILL have a problem with dinner. Give yourself a break - seriously. xoxo

  9. Oh, Dinner, I hate you too. I *used* to like to cook. I also get rave reviews on hot dogs (and my fish sticks are magnifique) but anything else, and the kids are like, meh, it's okay.

  10. In my case I get all of that flack from Dinner AND I hate cooking to begin with. Where is the paid domestic help that I dreamed of when other kids were learning how to cook?

  11. I have a four year old, a two year old, and I am 33 weeks pregnant in the heat of Texas. I have two words for you Chick Fila. If I lived by you I would pay you top dollar to make my family a big ass pan of chicken pesto pasta, your my hero!
    I can totally relate to your grill dilemma my children by no means should be left near fire even with me watching them.

  12. Ok, I'm not yet at the point of assassinating Dinner but I must admit there are days. BTW I am a daddy not a mommy that does all the cooking for Dinner. Loved the post and if you can stand my typos and grammatical mistakes I have a cooking blog at emphasis on cost and time as well as flavor. Read comment & share. I give full credit for all recipes that people give me that I post unless you have a TV show.

  13. Yes, YES. My (very rare) masterpieces are met with overwhelming apathy. Also, let's say I realize there's not enough of something I like to go around unless I have less than I want (say there were only four hot dogs left and I really wanted two). Without fail I will selfishly give the three little piggies three hot dogs, only to find my sacrificed second dog, my baked offering, under the table, WHOLE, when I'm cleaning up that night. Grrrr.

  14. I hate dinner too, yet like you I love to cook. I really think it is my husband's fault. We grill out because we don't have A/C. But his majesty only eats beef and chicken. Every so often hot dogs and italian sausage are ok. He has the nerve to tell me "he is all chicken and steaked out" WTH ELSE am I supposed to cook!? Forget about a meatless meal!

    Oh and, I am a BIG believer in natural consequences. Mommy says stay the SCHMIDT away from the grill or you'll get burned. If my 2 yo doesn't, she will. Either whatever body part she got too close or her hiney will burn from a spanking!

  15. My wall post from yesterday matched your rant! I went and got the groceries and came home and put the meats and such in the freezer. Flash forward to about 4 o'clock. 'Holy shmidt! I forgot to leave the meat out!' We eat waaay early because my hubby gets up at 3:30 in the morning for work so he needs to be in bed early. It was too late to thaw anything in time. Mini pizzas it was....sigh. I, too, get 'It's good.' But I often get an 'It was good, but next time...' @#$$%! NEXT time YOU'RE cooking!

  16. I love this!!! OMG, It is just so right on. I HATE to cook, yet with 3 kids and a husband the task generally falls to me. The other day my husband sighed and said, "boy, I really wish I liked to cook". I looked at him and said, "me too!" and he acted all shocked, like Really? You don't like to cook???
    Seriously. My latest masterpiece was plain pasta noodles and veggie patty. With ketchup. (I do make a mean soup though) But freak - every single night??? Calgon take me away...

  17. So funny! I think when I cook new meals I must only do it for me because nobody else appreciates it. And you're right about the ketchup!

  18. Absolutely brilliant. Dinner and I have gone toe to toe far too many times. Perhaps we should team up and kick Dinner's butt.

  19. Lydia, I love you. Seriously, your eloquence astounds me. You know, we expect to see a video of you and Dinner now!

  20. I LOVE IT!!! After a long day with appointments and three kids and a TON of waiting WITH three kids, I come home to tidy up, my husband comes home and I start on dinner and then he complains he doesnt like eating at 7. I told him them he should just make it himself. I needed this rant today. THANK YOU!!!

  21. I have a husband in the food industry who A) works till way past dinner time 5 nights a week and B) if he does cook one of his two days off (OMG, can't do that twice) I have to plan the meal... that's the hard part. He just doesn't get that I've already done that for the 5 other days!

    I try for the food with leftover idea too.... I've turned sloppy joes to spaghetti sauce, can do a 100 things with a whole chicken ( crockpot go to) but still feel the dinner rut....

    I call 5 p.m. in my small town grocery store the hunting and gathering hour... It's been like this forever.

  22. AMEN! Sing it Sister...

  23. You need to check out --great (usually) easy ideas --lots of variety. A whole week planned already WITH shopping list already made out. And a bonus--the author has a similar sense of humor (frame of mind) as you.

  24. OH MY GOD YOU BLOGGED MY LIFE AGAIN. So brilliant - especially the grill part, I have said that myself so many times! Around here it's MEN who do the grilling, so they get credit for making a delicious steak dinner while SOMEONE scurries around making vegetables, baked potatoes, getting the condiments and side dishes ready, setting the table, pouring the drinks, etc etc - oh, but golly gee, thanks for standing around a barbecue for 20 minutes with your buddies and making the meal! Okay, rant over ... another awesome post, thank you Lydia!

  25. I LOVE to cook, I HATE the dishes! If I could cook without the cleanup I'd do it more often. Instead I try for easy meals that require as few dishes as possible.

  26. This post is the story of my life. My husband learned several years ago that "what's your plan for dinner?" is the most evil thing in the world he can ask me. Thank Jebus that my older child (now 8) has finally accepted mac and cheese. But we're still a far cry from making regular crockpot meals, b/c neither of my girls likes to have a SAUCE on their meat. The hardest part lately is that the husband was diagnosed diabetic - so much for that easy pasta every night!

  27. Megan says: I feel your pain--Dinner is my nemesis as well. A)I really do not like to cook. B) I don't get home from work until 6:15 and C) 90% of the time I have forgotten to take something out of the freezer before I leave for work. Thank goodness I often get texts from my teenage son that read "can we make our own dinner?" :-D




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