What’s For Dinner?

I want a home-cooked meal, but I don’t want to cook. I want my kids to eat a home-cooked meal, but I don’t want to cook. I’d kinda like for my husband to eat a home-cooked meal because it’s healthy but A- I don’t care all that much because he can worry about his own needs and B- I don’t want to cook.

I enjoy watching cooking shows and think if I had things prepped and chopped and ready and waiting in small bowls and ramekins, sure, I’d be more eager, or rather, less displeased about cooking. I hear people who say, “I love to cook.” And all I can think is you are a strange being. Like those beings who don’t like chocolate. I cannot relate.

There are several obstacles in my way regarding cooking for pleasure. OMG I almost threw up a little bit writing that. Cooking and pleasure together to me are as natural a combination as hamburgers and chocolate chips.

My mom cooked a ton for us when I was growing up. Our family’s favorite meal was pork chops and mashed potatoes night. We also loved spaghetti night. But pork chops and mashed potatoes was the winner.

As a newlywed, I offered my cooking “abilities” to my husband. I suggested one night to make pork chops and mashed potatoes. He does not like mashed potatoes he informed me. So I made them for myself and made him chicken and rice. Two and a half hours later my legs and feet and back were aching, and I was fed but frustrated. Too much work, this cooking thing! On another occasion I tried again for mashed potato night. Chris gave in and “tried” it. So there you have it, once in fourteen years of marriage I made my mom’s famous pork chops and mashed potato meal.

I know there is that famous book out there called The Five Love Languages and although I purchased it, I have not read it (more on that sometime for sure.) But from looking at the title and the table of contents, I can tell you this: Cooking is NOT my love language!!!!!

As kids, my sister and I would run in and out of the house, playing tennis in the street, jumping on our friend’s trampoline, dashing inside for a sip of water, and dashing right back out again. But before we did, we’d quickly ask, “Mom, what’s for supper?” Sometimes she’d say chicken or tacos, but sometimes she’d snap, “Go play! I’ll let you know what’s for supper when I know what’s for supper!” Mom, I feel ya!

There is no happy ending coming from answering the “Mom, what’s for dinner” question. If my five year old asks and I tell her chicken, she’ll wine (although she almost always eats what is served.) If my eight year old asks, only two possible answers please her: Papa John’s pizza or heart shaped pasta (any variety of novelty shaped pasta, actually, thanks to TJ Maxx.) Of course instead of pizza, she is likely to earn a heap of cottage cheese on her plate accompanied by watermelon or strawberries. I am thinking very seriously of sending my little vegetarian to Vegetable Camp. Please let me know if that exists.

Alas, the hubs is the final component of the dinner time bomb disaster. First of all, if he is calling and asking this most annoying question at 3:45 or 4:00 pm, there is clearly not a plan in place. And aside from cleaning house, nothing wears me out more than going to the grocery store and cooking in the same afternoon. I may happily jog three miles, do sit-ups, and push-ups, but when it comes to the kitchen, I’m a wimp who tires quickly!

My poor husband has a few things working against him already. First of all, the hubs and I clearly do not have the same eating preferences. I like chicken cooked in the pan; he likes it baked in the oven. He wants roasted potatoes; I prefer some sautéed kale. I like to cook things quickly and everything he wants to eat takes over an hour to prep and bake.

But the invisible part is this: Even though my mom cooked for us three kids and Pop, she raised me and my sister as feminists. Not crazy feminists, but healthy, independent, aware women. High school and college boyfriends were allowed, but they were not doted on. Emphasis was placed on having sincere friendships and making oneself happy from within. So I grew up knowing “I don’t need no man!” I can still remember my sister and me moving my furniture out of my last college apartment. We had to take all six drawers out of the dresser to move it, but hell yeah, we moved that beast of a solid wooden dresser! We also chanted, “We are strong, powerful women!” while we gripped tightly, sweated, laughed, and took baby steps toward the U-Haul. But we did it! And we did it without a man.

My grandma Jack-Jack was a millennial woman, but Grandpa was pretty happy living in the shadows of the 1950s. Jack-Jack worked in real estate, kept house amazingly, cooked deliciously, and baked even more scrumptiously. She always stayed on her feet, feeding all of us the fresh, hot pancakes while she kept flipping new ones on the pan. By the time I was scraping every last bit of syrup up with my fork and trying with all my might not to lick my plate because it was bad manners, she’d come sit at the table and eat her pancake. But I also have this image of her serving us dinner when my sister and I spent the night. Grandpa would always sit in his chair, practically with fork in hand, and look over his shoulder to ask a question or give a comment while Jack-Jack was scurrying to the table with his food. It worked for them. But man, I just can’t stand that image. I know they served each other in their marriage in various ways and had different love languages (Grandpa brought Jack-Jack a bar of soap from practically every hotel he stayed at while traveling as a salesman. I have those soaps displayed in my bathroom.) Hubs, you may think you are asking an innocent question, but in reality, if you ask me what is for dinner, you are setting free the anti-cooking feminist in me by conjuring up all of these images. It’s not your fault. You didn’t know. Now you know.

My poor family is just gonna have to come to terms that Mommy doesn’t like to cook. If there were a perfect storm of goodness (smiles, hip-hip-hoorays, excitement, and yummy comments,) then maybe mommy could tolerate cooking. But until then, my sweet family, know there will be food of some kind or other and know that asking those three words, “what’s for dinner” sounds as lovely as nails on a chalkboard.

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