Saturday, May 19, 2012

Now It’s All in the (Foodie) Family

Photo Credit: The Girl

We in the Foodie family are a team.  (Not a basketball team, in spite of the photo above–that’s me trying to photograph The Boy in action, to update his picture on this blog, while The Girl takes a photo of the family in action.  The Hubs is playing rebounder, so The Boy won’t have to run around.)  More often than not, we operate as a cohesive unit:  when one of us is upset or sick or overwhelmed by life or otherwise out of sorts, everyone else springs into action.  No one even has to ask for assistance.  This is true of both The Hubs and I as well as the Foodie children, who are quick to offer comfort to each other when trouble strikes.  Like all siblings, they squabble when they have nothing better to do–but when it really matters, they step up.  I’m not sure how The Hubs and I have managed to create such a terrific family, but we’ve very proud that these are the people we get to come home to every evening.

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that, when I agreed to take on some administrative responsibilities at my university next year, The Hubs made a proposal:  making dinner for the family each evening needed to become a shared enterprise.  What if he and the Foodie children each took over planning and making dinner one night a week?  And what if one evening were a do-it-yourself affair?  Although my new position won’t kick in until August, the Foodie children were eager to get started–and it made sense for them to get in the habit of looking for recipes and making a shopping list (all requests submitted to me by Thursday evening) before their participation in those activities was absolutely crucial.

We’ve been following our new dinner plan for about two weeks now.  In that time, we’ve enjoyed

  • Crispy shrimp tacos with a sour cream and lime sauce, courtesy of The Girl
  • Cheeseburger mac and cheese, courtesy of The Boy; and
  • Gluten-free lasagna, courtesy of The Hubs.

All perfectly delicious, I might add.  But it’s been surprisingly difficult for me to let go of the reins–not because the Foodie children sometimes require a little help in the kitchen (very little–The Boy, in fact, shooed me out of the kitchen while he was cooking), but because I’m used to making dinners the way I like them, and eating a meal prepared by someone else means accepting what they offer with gratitude–even if you would have made it a little differently.  You wouldn’t go to a friend’s house and offer suggestions for improving the meal next time around, so I certainly can’t say this to the most important people in my life.  In letting the Foodie children take the lead in the kitchen, I’ve had to learn to model what it means to be a gracious guest at another family member’s dinner table.

We’re still tweaking the system.  This week, The Girl discovered how many of the recipes she’d like to make aren’t gluten-free, so I stepped in to suggest a small alteration for my portion of the meal.   Because we each have a designated night to cook dinner, school events and unexpected commitments occasionally interrupt the order, and we haven’t yet decided what that means:  should someone just get a night off?  Should that person prepare his or her meal on what would have been do-it-yourself night?  Should the chef trade nights with someone else if he or she suddenly can’t be home in time for dinner–and is that fair to ask of someone who wasn’t planning to cook?  We don’t have answers to those questions yet, and it may turn out that our answers change each time a question is asked.

The most important benefit of this system (so far, anyway) is that it’s encouraging the rest of the Foodie family to think about the food we eat.  The Boy found one of his recipes on the back of a ketchup bottle, and I’m fairly certain he’d never even noticed there were recipes anywhere other than in books and magazines before that moment.  Suddenly, though, he’s finding them everywhere.  The Girl realized, planning this week’s meal, that she’d made shrimp dishes for us twice in a row, which made her think about the importance of variety.  The Hubs discovered the importance of planning ahead when he waited to shop for dinner ingredients until the evening on which his dinner needed to be made–which left him with no time to actually make a meal.  All the work that goes into making a meal for the family every night is suddenly becoming clear to everyone.

So, we’re all learning valuable lessons–and that’s the way it should be.  This time next year, The Girl will be finishing high school, and she’ll need to know how to cook for herself if she’s going to avoid eating fast food for every meal.  The Boy has a little more time with us at home, but why not spend that time learning new ways to take care of himself?  Sharing the responsibility for making dinner has been more of a challenge than a relief for me, but I know it’s the right thing to do.  And I know the whole family will benefit.  In the long run, that’s what matters.


Share! It's the right thing to do.

One Response to “Now It’s All in the (Foodie) Family”

  1. 1

    Christine — May 19, 2012 @ 10:28 pm

    I love this! Yay, you and Foodie Family! Perhaps you could encourage them to make meals ahead of time and freeze them so if life happens on their night to cook, something would already be prepared.

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