I hate the time of day when I have to figure out what to make for dinner.
This time of day always seems to sneak up of me, even though it happens like every day. I am happily going about my day and then suddenly I am staring down four starving kids who want dinner and not just any dinner but dinner with no green things, preferably something fried and if it could include cookies and cake, that’d be awesome.
It’s not the actual cooking part that I don’t like, it’s the coming up with what to cook that I hate. If someone put me in a fully loaded kitchen and said make this that and that other thing, I would happily go to town.
Strange as it sounds, I find the process of cooking oddly soothing and therapeutic. It’s the planning that makes me want to run like a chipmunk being chase by a badger.
I have tried the whole month menu planning thing and making a list of recipes to make each week and it does work for a couple of days but soon, I get bored and I don’t want to make what is on the list. I want to make something ‘good’.
So I stand in front of my freezer hoping that inspiration will hit me but instead a rock hard ball of mystery meat slides out and lands on my toe.
I slam the door shut, cradle my hurt toe and mumble words that would make a sailor blush. All the commotion, of course, has attracted the attention of the children and they run to see what is going on. I can say their names until I am blue in the face and not get a response but they hear one mumbled curse word and they are on me like white on rice.
Once they see that I am fine and the boys are convinced that my toe is not going to fall off and be something gnarly, they scatter. Well all but one scatter, she stays.
“Mommy, can I watch you?” she asks.
She asks this question almost every day. It’s like a little buzzer goes off in her head when she notices me begin to rummage through the freezer and pantry.
I used to try and push her away. My stress was enough figuring out this dinner plan, I didn’t want someone small under my feet. Then I realized she had ideas about what to eat for dinner, “How about tacos or breakfast, mommy” she adds licking her lips.
I let her stay. How else is she supposed to learn the how to cook and win the battle against dried out chicken?
She needs to watch me. She needs to learn from me. She needs to see that having the Pizza boy’s phone number on speed dial is the smartest phone setting to make.
She will push over a stool and climb up. She is interested in all the things I have put out on the counter that I am hoping to make into something nutritious and eatable. She asks me questions about each thing, she wants to taste them and before I know it, the stress of ‘what to make’ begins to melt away and is now taking shape into ‘shit I threw in a pan’ aka dinner.
As I cook and she helps me, our talking about dinner switches to just talking.
She tells me about how one boy in her class is super naughty and had to go to the principles office.
She tells me about music class and sings part of the song she is learning, she shows me how she can count and spells a ‘slight word’ for me.
She tells me about how Landon D. asked her to be his girlfriend and I find out that means that she is a girl and his friend.
I can’t help but smile as she talks about him more and then shows me the piece of crumpled up paper he gave her. She tells me that she must keep it forever. I encourage her to keep it safe in her desk drawer up in her room.
Soon dinner is in the oven and she runs off to play or find her brothers to see what they are up too.
I find myself wishing that dinner prep took longer and even looking forward to it tomorrow.
“Oh and mommy,” she said appearing suddenly, “Landon D asked me to marry him and I said yes.”
Yes, I am definitely looking forward to tomorrow night’s dinner prep. Apparently, she and I have a lot of things to discuss.