Back when my Lovely Bride and I were newlywed New Yorkers, we cooked together three nights each week, got held up at work two times and ate out twice. One decade and two children later, we dream of just randomly going out to dinner. We have to dream because we can’t remember actually doing so.
These days, Lovely combs cookbooks and plans menus for five nights a week, figuring leftovers or pizza the other two. It’s one of her ways of contributing to the care and nurturing of the children. She enjoys curling up in our yellow upholstered swivel rocking chair with a stack of cookbooks and a hot drink. I enjoy avoiding the agony of deciding. Like whether to have sweet-and-sour pork, pork with black bean sauce or grilled pork chops. I don’t a rip, as long as she tips me off when something needs to marinate before I open the fridge at 5:30. (Sometimes I don’t get the message, so spaghetti Bolognese turns into mac-and-cheese from a box.)
As Lovely moves into the annual Fall Crazy Time at work, it occasionally falls to me to pick the menu. She’s busy finding and hiring three people while doing the work of the ones who moved on, plus orchestrating six events in five weeks – oh and starting to plan for Winter Crazy Time at work – so I don’t mind flipping through the cookbook.
I don’t like deciding on the spur of the moment what to fix. I like a plan. Except then sometimes I have to figure out what to fix with what. Broccoli with fish? Tortellini with chicken? Ugh, somebody just tell me what to fix.
So this week, I threw it to the children.
I knew what we had in the freezer, and I know what they’ll eat. So I divided it into three columns: meat, vegetable, starch. Some Real Simple article about dealing with picky eaters mentioned letting the kids pick the menu for a night. I tried that once, but Eddie and Carla bickered about it instead.
This time I opted for multiple choice. Oughtta make for happy kids and happy control-freak Daddy.
The kids just looked at me.
“It’s simple,” I told them. “Just pick one from here and one from here and one from here. Except if you pick lemon chicken, then we have to have rice. And chicken and dumplings have to go together. That’s Mommy’s Law. Oh, and if we have corn, we don’t really need rice the same night. Too starchy.”
Great, now I’m sucking the joy out of a joyless activity by imposing all these conditions.
They started to squirm.
“Okay, let’s start with what kind of chicken – lemon or with dumplings?” I asked.
“Lemon chicken!” Eddie said.
“Okay, now pick a vegetable from this column…” And then it went okay from there. Except nobody wanted asparagus, so I’ll just fix it as a second vegetable one night.
Woo-hoo! Menu planned with only moderate pain.