Early in our courtship, Matt and I found a strong common thread in the importance of family in our lives. Family dinner, for us, was non-negotiable. This happened early enough for me NOT to know how weird he thought my vegetarian chili was, but far enough in to know we were both serious about the idea. Fast forward four years and a million (good, bad and ugly) dinners, and you can find us at 6:30 on any school night; Matt outside planting bulbs, Colby still stinky from baseball practice and upstairs finishing his homework, and mama on the couch, drinking a beer and looking up the recipes. With luck, the table is set before 9 o’clock.
The concept of eating together was easy to embrace. The act of creating a family meal every.damn.night took some time (and many nights of cereal or PBJs) to figure out. Notice I didn’t say master. However, in the cyclone that is modern working life, I’ve been able to shake out some basic rules for family dinner. See Jenny Rosentrach’s 100 Rules of Dinner for the best advice ever (especially rules 24, 26, 49 and 50).
Sunday – Big, green salads all around. Leftovers for Colby and Matt – baked beans and beans and rice. Do give yourself one night a week to get rid of whatever is ready to go in your refrigerator. Try to find one big, unifying ingredient like a loaf of good bread, a soup or ‘whatever’s left in the crisper salads (see above). Let everyone else pick and choose from the contents of the refrigerator. You get a family meal, a clean refrigerator and a clean conscience (nothing’s wasted!).
Monday – Baseball practice. This macaroni and cheese served with three huge heads of broccoli (roasted in oo, s&p).
Don’t be afraid to eat later than everyone else in America. Keep a box of granola bars and a bag of apples handy for the in-between hours. Eating late is better than eating in shifts. Also, don’t feel guilty if this just.isn’t.going.to.work on any given night. Life demands flexibility. If we eat before 7 p.m. it is a miracle comparable to the virgin birth.
Tuesday – Baseball practice.
Tacos with all the fixings Colby changes in the car after practice and goes straight to watch his school’s speech competition. It is now buffet style nacho night. Don’t be afraid to change plans.
Wednesday – Baseball game, Rx appointment. Parmesan breadsticks with Portland Pie Rosemary Garlic pizza dough and big salads. Do plan easy meals for busy days.
Thursday – Baseball practice. Faculty meeting. Grill all around: chicken thighs, corn and veg kabobs. Do choose something to do at the table when everyone is grumpy. I refused to let anyone watch television during dinner because I was SURE it would ruin the whole fucking point of family dinner. I mean, aren’t you supposed to bond? Talk about work and school and life? The short answer is: In your dreams, mama. I’m convinced that watching tv is less damaging than watching mom and dad give each other the stink eye from across the table or demanding an answer to “how was your day” from a surly teenager. Last summer we watched The Walking Dead on Netflix. Now we’re watching X-Files. If we feel like talking, we talk over it. If not, we bond over our shared disgust at Scully’s refusal to believe. Also, delegate. Matt grills, I bake.
Friday – Baseball practice. Buttered and toasted English Muffins and poached eggs with fruit. That chardonnay I’ve been eying all week. Don’t plan a difficult meal for a Friday night. You work, right? Don’t do this to yourself. End your week nice and easy and plan a beverage pairing.
Saturday – Drum lessons and travel soccer try-outs. Take out. Put take-out on the menu. This usually happens on game days for us, but I’m sick of take-out pizza and if I want anything else I would have to drive. So – take out day is Saturday this week.
This meant-for-Monday-night post is finally ready for you. Have a great week, enjoy the sunshine and take it easy.