Thursday, September 23, 2010

Confessions of a Non-Foodie

Does anyone else find the hour before dinner the most challenging hour of the day?  I barely know what to do with myself.   

It’s a vacuous span of time -- too late for children to be napping, too early to congratulate myself for getting everyone safely to bedtime.  It’s the hour when my two-year-old is most apt to secretly raid the spice rack and shake the contents of a half-full cinnamon container into the drawer where we keep our silverware.

It’s the hour when my five-year-old is most likely to spill the tub of glow beads, all 6,000 of them, onto the kitchen table and floor.


It’s when my kids watch me handle raw chicken, poke at it with their tiny index fingers, and before I can shout "Lysol," unconsciously bring their hands to their mouths.

Some people may revel in this hour.  They build their entire day around it.  These are the people who love to cook.  Food is their art.  Recipes are their narratives.

I am not one of these people. 

I belong to a different group, a group of people who cook because eating is necessary to sustain life.  One of my college roommates once confessed, “I sometimes pray that my other roommates don’t come home while I’m cooking and laugh.”  I understood that.

There are two ironies with this.  One is that I love to host and feed large groups of people on special occasions.  During these days, my entire purpose is to cook.  Cooking is no longer a chore that fit in or multitask around; it’s what the day is made for.  The entire day builds up to that one meal, that special event.  I can handle that.

Two, I’m fascinated by food.  While pregnant with Kerrington, I watched Top Chef Masters with awe, not sure what half of the ingredients were, but loving the process, the creativity, and the insight into a realm where I clearly don’t belong.

It’s just the day-to-day routine of cooking that wears me down.  It’s repetitive.  It’s mundane.  On occasions when a small member of our family declares that she doesn’t like what I’ve prepared for dinner before I’ve even announced what dinner will be, the whole experience feels downright accusatory.

Some days I bump dinner earlier, as if I’m trying to trick everyone – myself included – by attempting the impossible task of filling the hour before dinner with the actual dinner hour.  This obviously doesn’t work.  You can’t fill an hour with another hour and use up two hours that way.  (At least we can’t.  If you’ve figured out quantum time theory, let me know.)

Plus, when I bump dinner earlier I risk prematurely aging our family into one who eats according to a blue-plate, early-bird schedule: lunch at 11, dinner at 4:30.  It’s no good.

So, I do what I can to make things easier.  I attempt to plan menus for the week in advance.  I intend to get good mileage out of my crock-pot.  I brainstorm meals that won’t cause mutiny among the ranks of the little people in our house.

And when all else fails, pizza is always a solution that everyone agrees upon.

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