Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Go ahead. Ask me what's for dinner.

Go ahead.  Ask me what's for dinner.  It's a question that comes up a couple times a day around here.  It's often part of the breakfast conversation.  Sometimes I know the answer and sometimes I ask myself, "Hmmm... what is for dinner?"

There are seasons of my life when it's very ok to throw together an oatmeal dinner at 5:15 pm.  I won't pretend that it doesn't happen.  Thankfully, all of my old-enough-to-consume-gloppy-food family members like oatmeal.  (Except me.  Too gloppy.  Baked oatmeal, though, that's more my taste.  I mean... consistency.  Whatever.)

On non-oatmeal nights, I sure do relish the sense of accomplishment when at the end of the day we've actually had the dinner that I designated for that particular day.  I keep a very official weekly dinners list on my refrigerator dry erase board.  It becomes somewhat less official when a child erases it and I start to panic, "What was I supposed to make tonight????"  But, there are some weeks where I actually make all the meals I was planning to make and there are leftovers for leftovers night.  It all makes me feel so competent.

Kitchen competency.  It's become a very personal and touchy subject for me.  I'm not a chef or even a chef-type wanna be.  I don't do creative things in the kitchen.  I don't add a little of this and little of that and know that a meal will come out tasting delicious.  I follow recipes, meticulously.  Or I call my mom.  She's very helpful to me; I ask her things like "Can you freeze wine" and "I just found a three-year-old steak in my freezer.  Is it safe to give to the kids or should I test it on my husband first?"  I still have to call my mom to get instructions on how to hard boil an egg.  Even though I have the recipe for it in my recipe box.  I'm not kidding.  It's not my mother's fault that I lack kitchen confidence.  She taught me a lot about baking and cooking when I was younger (and she still does, apparently.)  I recall making muffins from a box mix and trying recipes from a kids cookbook, most notably Hamburger Pie.  And I was there when the one-time lobster splurge went into the pot.  And yet, something must have happened along the way, something I've repressed, because to this day, much of my self worth hinges on whether or not I can make a dinner that my family will appreciate.

I definitely don't have creativity in the kitchen going for me.  But I have other strengths.  Yes, I do.  I can research, plan, and prep with the best of them and I've gotten pretty darn good at producing mass quantities of... well, just about anything.  And a couple years ago my husband got me a gift that says I love you like no other... an upright freezer.  So, my skills combined with that kind of storage capacity... you can see where this is going.

Every Autumn the weather gets cooler and I get "the bug."  It's been coming on gradually the last month or so - a doubled soup recipe here, an extra batch of applesauce tossed in the freezer there.  But yesterday was the transition day - it went from gradual to get-out-of-my-way-it's-full-speed-ahead.  Last night I was on a homemaking high.  With the kiddos in bed at 6:45, and the bottle of Chardonnay my husband brought home, there was no stopping me.  Batches of granola were flying in and out of the oven.  (not a dinner food, but still an important staple around here.)  Multiple casseroles were were packaged up and sent to the freezer.  I put together six gallon-bag Crock Pot freezer meals for friends - I like freezing dinners ahead of time so much, I have a party each year to celebrate this kind of kitchen efficiency.  (Ok, not really a party, but a super great frozen meal exchange!)  This evening I bagged up six more Crock Pot meals to be frozen until the appointed time (to be determined by the dry erase board.)  After this initial flurry of meals, I have three more rounds to go until I rest: (1) soups (2) chili  (3) miscellaneous casseroles.

It feels great.  This is me in my element.  This is what I do to prove my competence in the kitchen.  More importantly, this is what I do to care for my family in a special way throughout the winter.  Meals are available, no wondering what's for dinner, no fuss.  I'm not flustered or distracted during the most critical time of the day (you all know that a perfectly fabulous day can be turned upside-down by those weird things that the 3 -5 o'clock hours can do to children and mothers.)  I can confidently answer "what's for dinner," because I made it many, many weeks ago, and it's written right on the bag.  On any given cold winter evening there is the guarantee that the house will smell amazing, the dinner will be hot, the children will have had plenty of afternoon attention from me, and that I will feel like a homemaker-magician hybrid.

So, go ahead.  Ask me what's for dinner this winter.  It's not going to be oatmeal... I've moved that back to the breakfast cupboard!


  1. I made hamburger pie with MY mom from a kids cookbook! Was is the A-Z one from Gold Medal flour? And A+ for competency!

  2. I don't know which cookbook it was, but I remember a girl with an apron and ponytail on the cover. I tried to look for it on Amazon, but gave up pretty quickly. Would it be considered "vintage" at this point...? That's a little unnerving :)


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