Saturday, February 09, 2008

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Your guess is as good as mine.

I always tried to make dinner a family affair. It became the one time of the day that we all sat down together. The conversation wasn't always intellectual yet we rarely argued at the table (bad for the digestive tract and all). Even with sports and other activity schedules we managed to eat together. We might eat really early or really late yet for 16 years I managed to accomplish this feat.

Many a time I felt I ran, no that's not right, worked at a restaurant, no that's not right, a cafeteria. Yes, yes, much better, barring the hairnet and orthopedic shoes. The menu went something like Mon - beef, Tues - pasta, Wed - chicken, etc... What dish depended on the season, what was on sale that week, and a ziploc bag (not a box) of recipes.

When the PITAs were little dinner was easy. The rule was if they didn't clean their plate, they didn't get dessert. Dessert's great motivation. But over time it lost it's power over them. The last few years the table as grown larger while those sitting around it grew fewer. There are many different reasons for the decline in attendance: part-time jobs, social events, and of course

"I don't eat that!"

Did I mention I don't like to cook? Never did. But as a wife and mother I was expected to have the cooking gene. Well my mother didn't have it, her mother didn't have it so I don't have it. It, evidently, being a dormant gene in our family DNA. Still I fried, marinated, tossed, baked, grilled, boiled, broiled, sauteed, etc... more meals than I care to remember. Most were good, some superb and a few inedible. God forbid I hit upon a recipe everyone liked. I cooked it til they never wanted to eat it again.

The last several months I slowly realized that the challenge now becomes how to down-size my cooking. After all these years of cooking for a family of 5 which is like cooking for 7 or 8 it's difficult to condense recipes, atleast for me. I am not a pinch of this and a pat of that cook, I need to be told exactly how much, when to add, and how long to cook it.

Even that didn't solve the problem, I never know who's going to be home for dinner, except DH and myself. So I still cooked for 5 and set leftovers warming for those coming in at whatever time. More and more nobody wanted the leftovers because they grabbed something while out. I in turn threw out more and more food each week. Yet if someone didn't grab a bite to eat and there were no leftovers available they felt slighted.

What's a mom to do?

This mom decreed that everyone knows when dinner is, what their schedule is and if they are going to be joining us for dinner or not. I cook depending on this schedule and if their plans change then they make due with whatever is available because...

This is not a cafeteria or a restaurant.

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