It’s Dinner

I read an Opinion piece in the New York Times – Pay People to Cook at Home  I think there are some very valid points about valuing the work (traditionally considered Women’s Work) done at home – but I am concerned by this statement. “It’s nearly impossible for a single parent or even two parents working full time to cook every meal from scratch, planning it beforehand and cleaning it up afterward.”

Well, it may depend on how one defines “from scratch” – but I disagree.Now, let me make this clear – I am not cooking for children now, I never have, and I do understand that there are some constraints with small children that I do not face. The major one, really, is that, if you are picking children up at day care after work, they can’t really wait a few hours to eat. I can come home, sit a while, and then start a meal – a mother often cannot.

I worked in daycare, though, for years, and I know that many of the parents did cook dinner every night. (I often heated up the leftovers for the child’s lunch, the next day, and we sometimes talked about time management in the evenings.) I also know that this scheduling problem gets easier as they get older (though you no longer have the time after they go to bed for prep work…) Again, I think, we are caught up in the Cooking Mystique – the idea that it must take hours and hours, and huge effort.

Although I do not have children, I do have a chronic illness, and I have had to learn shortcuts. There are times I simply do not have the energy to do much, times I have to turn to Rich and ask him to cook, times we pull something out of the freezer. So, I make sure there is something *in* the freezer, or something he can cook without direction, or something I can throw together. It does take planning, though not necessarily the precise charts often described.

I have learned to cook food for more than one meal. I have learned what wonderful servants a handful of kitchen appliances really are. (There are jobs that do take time – but it doesn’t have to be *my* time.) I have learned a few things that can be easily prepared in advance, to make another meal easier. I have learned the convenient foods that are not Convenience Food, but real food – that is convenient.

And I have learned how to walk into the kitchen knowing only that we will have chicken tonight, and have a delicious meal on the table in half an hour. It may not be exciting, it may be something we ate last week (with a few flavor tweaks) but it is good – and it is Dinner.

We often join a group of friends for an evening of game playing. Most of our friends order takeout – we carry something I have cooked. Often, I have found, our friends envy Rich – he gets Real Home Cooked Food! But one evening, it was the leftover of a not entirely successful experiment – still pretty good, mind you, but not quite what I’d intended. One of the men asked what it was, and I started (sort of apologetically) explaining. At which point, another woman (who cooks for her family) looked up and brightly said “It’s Dinner!” And we laughed, because, well – it was. And really, on an ordinary Thursday, that is all it had to be.


1 thought on “It’s Dinner”

  • Yes, yes and yes! I have people ask me now about how I got to be a good cook. The answer is really, by cooking! I began with not at all flash food that had to be on the table when we needed to eat. I daily attended my husband’s school of cookery appreciation (I cooked dinner for my husband and he made appreciative noises) which spurred me on to more creative efforts which would also be appreciated. Our sons went to that school too and greeted whatever I brought to the table with “that smells wonderful, Mum”…before I took the lid off.
    I prepared meals part way, with the freezer and fridge and resealable containers as my allies in the campaign for sanity via meals on time. We ate at a regular time, if DH was not home, the children and I still got food on time, and DH knew a lovingly prepared meal would be waiting for him.

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