Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mom! What's For Dinner?

That is the most-dreaded question of my day. And, being that four of my kids are boys, that question is usually first asked right after breakfast (I am not joking, even slightly).

Hey, do not misunderstand me! I like eating dinner as much as the next guy, and I do not even mind making dinner (on most nights!). However, I detest coming up with dinner ideas which will please all the particular palates in my house. There is one dinner that makes everybody at our table happy: meat (roast beef, chicken, or turkey) and mashed potatoes. Once I veer away from that menu, it is a indisputable fact that at least one person will dislike whatever meal is on the table. Since our oldest child could verbalize his displeasure, my husband made the hard-and-fast rule that no one can say he/she does not "like" the meal, that person can state that he/she does not "care for" that particular meal. It may not seem like much, but to the ears of the chef, it sounds a lot less hostile!

Long ago I gave up the idea of trying to please every person, and instead aimed to please most family members. As long as you can ignore the sad, puppy-dog eyes and the mournful sighs, this approach works most of the time. But, there are days when it is very difficult to sit through a meal when you are flanked by people pushing food around their plates, then, as soon as dinner is over, watching those people rush to the cabinet that holds the bread and peanut butter to make themselves a sandwich.

The actual meal is not what bothers me the most, though. What really saps my creative juices is coming up with an entire dinner menu that sounds new, exciting, and delicious only to be asked the dreaded question, "Mom! What's for dinner?". It may not look like it, but that is when my palms get sweaty and my knees starting shaking. I try to look enthusiastic, as I stammer out the different "courses", only to have my nervous attempts prematurely shut down by one of my tweens' disappointed looks. These looks are often followed by the comment, "Sounds good, Mom. Do we have any yogurt or luncheon meat?".

In recent years, a new "dinner rule" has been instituted: no child may ask Mom about dinner until she is actually cooking it. The only person that is made happy by this rule is me, as I no longer feel the need to change a dinner menu at the last minute, or be ridden with unnecessary guilt for six hours. What the children do not realize, is that this rule does save them from a crabby mother and six hours of energy-sapping whining. A "win-win" situation, in my book.

I have learned that the saying "You can't please all of the people, all of the time." is very true; especially when "all of the people" are under eighteen and very opinionated. What does work is trying rotate through a series of dinner menus that please half of the people, half of the time. The nice surprise has been that, very occasionally, one member of the "other half" tries the food that he/she does not "care for", and finds that it actually tastes good! A small victory, but it's better than watching that child lean on the counter while he/she eats a container of yogurt after dinner.

So, what's for dinner at your house tonight?


  1. Considering that I am only cooking for one additional person these days and i have a ridiculously hard time trying to figure out what to make, I am a little nervous for the future. Maybe i should start planning now? ha ha

    Oh....and as far as dinner tonight goes (i am only telling you because it is actually planned and it didn't come from a box): I am making grilled flank steak marinated in red wine vinegar, honey, garlic, and soy sauce (so delish)....and on the side - My personal favorite - french fries and salad.

    At least i know 50% of my "crowd" will be happy tonight. he he

  2. Dang, Katie! Do you want a job as a chef for a large-ish family of picky eaters????

    That dinner sounds AWESOME!