Editor’s Desk

Posted 3/15/22

FROM THE Food battles I saw a quote the other day that I relate to: “Being an adult is figuring out what to cook for dinner every day for the rest of your life.” That sentence sums up my life. …

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Editor’s Desk



Food battles

I saw a quote the other day that I relate to: “Being an adult is figuring out what to cook for dinner every day for the rest of your life.” That sentence sums up my life. One could also call it a life sentence. I could also add, “My name is no longer Sarah, it’s ‘What’s for dinner?’” My husband, who is an excellent cook, used to love to cook. He is the type of person who can throw unmeasured ingredients into a pan and it comes out like a Michelin Star meal worthy of a food magazine. But he no longer loves to cook. Maybe it’s the years of being battered by picky children (we don’t give in). Or perhaps it’s the late hour he arrives home (he helps run the weight room at school, plus ferries our boys to countless activities). Or maybe it’s just that now that he’s married, he’s fallen into the comfort of having a wife who will save the day. I believe it’s a combination of all three. Now, if he’s asked ‘What do you want for dinner?’ his eyes glaze over like a deer in headlights and he says “Whatever you think, dear.”

I can cook, but I’m self-taught. I learned to cook by following recipes to the letter. With food, I am not creative nor a master. I can hold my own, and some things I make really well (lasagna, chili and shepherd’s pie are my best dishes), but it’s not my passion and having to cook when I’m tired after a long day of working and running kids around is not my idea of pleasant. I like to bake, but you shouldn’t feed growing children cookies or cheesecake for supper (I doubt they’d mind). We also try not to eat out constantly, because with six of us, it’s pretty expensive these days.

To combat my dislike of cooking and planning meals, I go into each weekend like a warrior with a battle plan. I try to have the fridge and pantry stocked, meals planned out and an answer for every “I’m hungry,” “I’m starving!” or “If I don’t eat NOW, I will DIE.” Sometimes, I fail. Sometimes, the children or the husband thwart my best-laid battle plans. They want candy and not fruit (Nope!) Chips are preferable over trail mix. “But I don’t WANT an orange, I’m hungry for Skittles!?!” It’s a never-ending battle of wills. “Water is so boring, I want Dr. Pepper!”

My husband and I both grew up in households in which you ate what was on your plate or you went hungry. There were no separate kid meals. It was meat, potatoes and vegetables and if you didn’t like it, tough. I remember choking down chow mein hotdish silently while praying it would go down (I like it now, but not then). I dared not say a word, because I knew it would do no good. I once sat at the table for over an hour after everyone else left (on Christmas Eve no less!) because I refused to eat a sweet potato. My uncle stood firm and I finally gave in and choked it down. The promise of a present outweighed my stubborn determination to stay at the table until dawn if I had to.

Parenting experts may disagree with me, but I’m old school and my kids are expected to eat what they’re given with gratitude. If they don’t eat it, they’re not getting anything else, especially not snacks. They may be stubborn, but their mother is the champion of stubbornness and I outlast them every time. Recently, the 11-year-old shed tears over eating riced cauliflower. You would have thought we were trying to make him eat poison. I’ve seen meltdowns over eating tomatoes on a BLT, horror at eating evil lettuce on a taco and utter devastation at the thought of asparagus touching their forks. Eyes blazing and chin jutting in defiance, the second oldest son once told me if he wants to eat ice cream and not his mashed potatoes, I can’t stop him. Oh, really?

My daughter gives us no trouble about food and eats anything. She is very easygoing. The boys are another story. It also never fails that the minute they file into the house, “I’m starving” and “What’s for dinner?” spews forth. I cook dinner to a chorus of “Is it done yet?”, “If I don’t eat now I will not live” and “How many more minutes?” Once the food is on their plates, at least one of them picks at it cautiously, like a grenade is tucked inside a broccoli floret. Mind you, I don’t cook anything extraordinarily odd or disgusting, I really don’t. I don’t try to make them stomach liver, lima beans, or lutfisk, for crying out loud, but I try to serve a vegetable, a starch or dairy and leaner meat. Once in awhile I fall back on something easy like chicken nuggets or grilled cheese and soups. We have treat nights with pizza or tacos. But at least once a meal, someone is horrifically offended by something ridiculous, like toast (Ethan hates it, along with eggs and anything that’s not Rice-a-Roni), tomatoes (Dawson will literally weep) or anything green (Lincoln, who would eat Sweet Tarts 24/7 if we let him).

If I make an overabundance of food, the kids are guaranteed to eat like birds. If I make just enough, then they are dying of starvation and eat everything but the kitchen sink within three minutes, and are looking around the kitchen for more. I cannot win.

I love my kids, but battling their stomachs and taste buds is exhausting. Anybody else feel that way? Write to me at [email protected] news