Thursday, March 12, 2009

woes of the cook with wee children


an archived picture of a meal the kids probably refused to eat


One of my fondest memories of the early years of our marriage is that every Friday night was "date food night." Rather than straining our meager budget by going out for dinner, we would cook up a veritable feast in the kitchen we'd painted sunshine yellow, taking quaint features like tiled counters that extended across exterior doors in stride (it was the oldest and yuckiest apartment we lived in, but we had so many happy times there that I really had a hard time moving out, which was occasioned primarily by the fact that it wasn't safe to have a baby living there).

On our dates these days, we often debate between the pros of going out for dinner (no dishes!!!) and just staying home and cooking up a feast together that we can enjoy without having to bribe, cajole, and threaten to get dinner past two little pairs of tightly-clenched lips. (Since most people with small children have this same scenario most evenings, stay tuned after the weekend for the report on our dinner group: we're hosting an Indian/Middle Eastern extravaganza. On the menu: fattoush, naan, chicken saag, tikka masala, masala channa, and gulab jamuns. I'm excited!)

Case in point: dinners thus far this week.

On Monday I roasted a couple of chicken breasts, sliced them up, and tossed them with romaine, fresh spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots, topped off with a raspberry vinaigrette. I also baked French bread.

Abigail ate four helpings of salad (Neil and I were both shocked. Plus she ate all the leftovers for lunch the next two days--we had to restrain her from a fifth helping) and one piece of bread. Juliet ate all the tomatoes from her salad, the center of two pieces of bread, and tried to throw the rest on the floor.

Tuesday was a really long day. Juliet was feverish all day and only napped for about an hour. Abigail didn't nap at all. Rain poured down outside in sheets. I was tired and headachy myself and wanted nothing more than to go to bed. We order Papa John's for dinner for the first time since March 2007 (I checked MS Money).

Abigail ate a slice and a half, Juliet ate half a slice then tried to throw the rest on the floor. The pizza was gone in less than ten minutes and the kids were in bed an hour later.

On Wednesday, determined to compensate for the greasy caloric load the night before, I carefully picked every single cilantro leaf off an enormous bundle, chopped them all up, and added them to black beans, chopped tomatoes, avocadoes, and cucumbers. I made fresh tortillas and stocked the table with chopped romaine and a cruet full of cilantro-lime dressing (Cafe Rio style). I set the table with our most colorful dishes and called everyone to come partake of the fiesta. Fresh strawberries waited in the wings for dessert.

Abigail ate three bites before categorically refusing to eat any more. Faced with the choice of finishing her dinner and being rewarded with strawberries, or leaving the table right then and going straight to bed, she chose bed. Juliet ate two tortillas, all her tomatoes, and left the beans, avocadoes, and cucumbers lying forlornly on her plate.

I said bad things about cooking all the way through the dishes and post-dinner cleanup. While I wiped off the table, I thought about how my frustrated parents would finally say things like, "That's it! When we go somewhere exciting on vacation, only Mary Beth is coming, because she's the only one who will eat the food!" (and they were probably right, because I remember eating an awful lot of hamburgers while my parents and MB were sampling some tasty treat that I'd gobble down now).

So for dinner tonight, I think I'm just going to throw in the towel on my original meal plan, and make something I know both kids will eat: whole-wheat bread, a variety of cheeses, and an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables. Somehow, we seem to end up eating this just about every week...it's my way of giving in to the inevitable (plus there are few things better than hot bread smeared with honey).

And I will rejoice in the fact that if my kids won't eat bean wraps, at least they adore Brie. It could be worse!

6 comments:

Mary Beth said...

I was reading too fast and thought for a moment that you were inviting me on vacation with you to eat amazing food. *sadface*

Sorry you're having trouble with the kids. At least you do know what they'll eat, though (and it's good stuff--they're not asking for macaroni and cheese every night!)

Would it be too much work to keep an assortment of vegetables and cheeses on hand, so that the kids have an alternative if they don't want to eat the exciting stuff you want to eat? I hate the thought of catering to picky eaters all the time, but Bread-and-Jam-for-Frances tactics might work. :D

Rachael said...

um, hello, come visit me and we WILL eat amazing food!

We do have an enormous assortment of foods that they like, and pretty much that's what they eat for lunch or breakfast every day--for instance, today's lunch was carrots, apples, bananas, and cheese, because that's what they wanted. It's just that at dinner I want them to expand those little taste buds...and yes, I've thought about doing the bread & jam tactic more than once! (and I always make very pointed comments when we read the story).

Elise Decker said...

i thought you were inviting mary beth on a vacation too, and i was being spurned just because i won't eat some stuff!!!! sad day....

Crapos said...

We have a standing joke in our house that when mom cooks, nobody eats, when dad cooks, everybody eats. It's very annoying to work for an hour on dinner and then have everyone wanting to leave the table before I even get a chance to sit down.

Meghan said...

I remember the day I made Hamburger Helper just to show everyone the terrible food that was served at other kids' houses. Rachael, you asked for HH for dinner constantly for about 2 years afterward.

Anonymous said...

And this summer we get to go on vacation to visit Mary Beth in DC and eat at our first favorite Indian place and then maybe the Afgan place or the Brazilian one or the Nicaraguan one or maybe even the Greek one. All those threats are coming home to roost.

Delightful Abitales.

I love you,
Dud

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