This past Tuesday my friend Kristin was here with her kids, and we were looking through the selections offered in this month’s Crafters Choice catalogue. (I’m one of those members who, after getting the initial offer of 5 books for 1, almost never orders anything else.) In this month’s catalogue, Kristin spied an offer for a pie cookbook. And then our conversation went something like this:
Kristin: Yum! This looks great. I love pies. My Mom makes great pies. I’ll bet your Mom does too, huh?
Me: Uh, no. My Mom is not a baker (this was said with a laugh, and my Mom will confirm that I am not giving away any secrets with that statement). But my grandmother was a great baker.
Kristin: Really? Your mom doesn’t bake?
Me: No, I actually gave her a ceramic tile one year for Christmas that read, “Martha Stewart doesn’t live here.” (I should have mentioned the birthday card I gave her one year, which showed a photo of a mother and daughter circa the 1950′s standing in dresses and aprons, holding a freshly iced cake up to the camera. The inscription on the inside read, “I don’t know what they’re doing either. Must be some sort of ancient housewife ritual.”)
Kristin: So, what kind of things did your mom cook when you were growing up?
Me: Just regular stuff. We had beef cattle, so hamburgers, steaks and roasts were a staple, with potatoes of some sort and always a vegetable, but rarely dessert. My dad doesn’t eat sweets and we hardly ever had them around.
Kristin: Do you remember her cooking and how she made things?
Me: (Thinking) ummm, no not really. Meals were pretty casual. There was always food but it was never a big production.
Kristin: Wow. My parents were really into mealtimes and having everyone come in and sit. Almost too much so, sometimes.
And so it went. Bottom line is, I don’t really remember the preparation of food in our house growing up. (Oh I remember things here and there, of course.) Mom never spent hours in the kitchen, but we always had good food to eat. Cooking sort of fell into the same category as cleaning the house – a necessary chore. I never envied families their food rituals and I sometimes think that the reason our family has no food hang-ups and no weight issues is partially due to the fact that food was just there. We ate it when we were hungry, were never forced to ‘clean our plate’ if we were full and there were no elaborate expectations associated with mealtime.
On the other hand, I do feel that it’s good to have home-cooked meals. I’d just enjoy it more if someone else was doing the cooking! But today Maya told me that she loves it when I cook, even though she knows I don’t really like to do it. So we sat down and came up with a plan. (I think I may have mentioned once or twice before that Maya is a very good planner.) We decided that each week on Thursday morning (because I grocery shop on Thursdays) we will sit down and plan 4 meals; two crock-pot meals and two that I cook and serve right away. I’ll buy necessary ingredients at the grocery store each week, and we’ll be set.
I know there are many, many people out there who can start thinking about what they will cook for dinner late in the day, know exactly what they have in their kitchen, pick up the extras they might need on the way home and have a 4 course dinner ready by 6. Not me. I need to know days in advance when and what I’m cooking and have the ingredients ready, or it ain’t gonna happen!
Maya has agreed to help plan the menu each week and also help in the preparation. She loves to cook. Somehow the cooking gene survived two generations of ambivalence and has now re-appeared courtesy of her. Which is a good thing and will serve her well. Right now it will serve me well.
Now I need to back up and say that if we weren’t life learners, Maya and I would never have had the conversation we had today that led to the decision to cook 4 evening meals each week. She went with me this afternoon to see my chiropractor. If she was in school that wouldn’t have been possible. Then we went to Joshua’s office to clean it. She did floors and bathroom tile, I did everything else. As we walked back to the subway, stopping for a coffee on the way, we got to talking about dinner, and eating out as opposed to cooking at home. Which is when she told me that she things I’m a very good cook and loves the food I make. And who could resist that? So then I said that I get anxious about cooking when 4 o’clock rolls around and I haven’t a clue what to make. And then we came up with the plan I outlined above. By the time we got home we were ready to pull out the 3 cookbooks that I actually use and choose recipes.
I would never have done that on my own. A small example of how when kids are involved in all facets of every day life, they contribute just as much as they receive, if not more. And there is no way 7 hours in a schoolroom every day can match that.