Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A fresh look at mealtime

I'm not one for making new year's resolutions, but the aftermath of the holiday season is a natural pause point. I'm catching my breath after the holiday fun, appreciating what’s been going well, figuring out what needs tweaking, and making a few course corrections.

Feeding my family is a central thread in that process. Nourishing my family is an act of love — or at least it should be. But it doesn't always feel that way after I've navigated the market, done all the chopping and sautéing and baking while helping with homework and mediating sibling disputes, and served a meal that more often than not gets a lukewarm response. My kids have become picky eaters, and it's been a wearing several months.

The challenges involved touch so many parenting issues for me:
  • Compromise: I have yet to find a food that everyone in my family loves. Four people, four very distinct tastes. Factor in the responsibility to make sure everyone is eating healthfully, and I have almost zero chance of pleasing the whole crew at any given meal. Somehow, I have to negotiate a peaceful middle path.
  • Attitude: I like cooking and I love food, but I loathe drudgery. Planning, shopping, putting away groceries, washing, peeling, chopping, cooking, packing up … too often, it feels like a chore. It doesn't help when the product of my efforts is met with indifference or even a chorus of "ew!' (Sometimes from me too.) When resentment takes hold, it feeds on itself in a vicious cycle. I don't like the way it feels, and I don't want to model that attitude for my kids.
  • Balance: It's amazing how much time I can spend planning, procuring, and preparing food. And then dinner is over in a flash! I've made strides lately in budgeting my time better, and need to continue to keep myself on a short leash. 
Over the next few days, I'll share a few ideas and tools I'm using to try to meet those challenges as gracefully as possible. Some are focused on organization and simplification, others on family roles. Happily, as I sat down to clarify what I need to work on and how, I found that every potential solution to one issue also helped another.

Are you reorganizing your approach for 2012? What do you do to keep yourself sane and happy in the kitchen?


Cindy Rowland said...

I would love to spend less time in the kitchen. I am too easily seduced by all these yummy looking, time consuming recipes I see around the web. Lately I've been going back to classic American cooking and enbracing meals like tacos and spaghetti w/ meatballs.

Darienne said...

Simplicity is good. I've been trying to work those in too. We have tacos every other week, and it's such a great family meal: easy and simple, and the kids can pick and choose what to put in them and what to try.

I've stopped just bookmarking interesting recipes, forcing myself to at least tag them in Evernote, where they get filed in a sort of recipe purgatory. If I don't work them into my meal plan in the next month or two, I delete them. And I pack away some cookbooks for months at a time. Just like rotating toys for the kids. :)


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