A surprising amount of my energy is devoted to the budgeting, planning of, shopping for, prepping, assembling, setting up, describing, cleaning after, storing, and not-to-mention eating of dinner. One time, when I was pregnant with child number six, I calculated how many times I lifted one item from my dinner menu before it was consumed. The answer was seven or eight, depending on whether I count the time that I pull it back out of the pantry or refrigerator to use it for dinner prep. Here is how I came to that number:
- From the shelf into the cart
- From the cart to the checkout conveyor belt
- From the belt into a bag
- Bag to the cart
- Cart to the car
- Car to the house
- Bag to the pantry/fridge
- Pantry/fridge to the dinner prep arena
This list made me fell better about being so fatigued by dinner. This does not even take into account the tone that my dinners can receive from the audience at my table. Typically, they are fairly complimentary but when the reviews are poor, the task becomes thankless…..that is never a happy thing.
Some data crunchers should calculate what percentage of a parent’s week is dedicated to the beginning-to-end process that is dinner. I think that number would be shockingly high. No wonder the fast food industry does so well and takeout is so popular. Who does not want to outsource this level of labor? Well…not us, apparently.
Cooking shows, cookbooks, cooking classes, cooking competitions, food-porn, cooking gadgets, etc have got to be a hefty part of our GNP. You can’t go very far without bumping into one or many of these on tv or on your computer. It is as if there is a collective hum across our nation that cries out the question: What’s for dinner?
Our household has fallen into a weekly schedule, of sorts, which goes like this:
Monday – Red Beans and Rice
Tuesday – Tacos or pasta or something everyone will definitely like
Wednesday- Something that was on sale that week
Thursday – Enough for a crowd because we host a group that night
Friday – Pizza or takeout because I’m worn out
Saturday – Almost always guests for dinner so something to combine with whatever they are bringing
Sunday – Lunch out or guests for lunch so no real dinner
That’s it. No glamor but the cultural nod of Mondays’ menu is unique.
We set the table. That’s pretty consistent. I have an index card with the template for a table setting. I’m kind of a stickler about table manners. I’m often telling kids to sit up and take their elbows off the table. I note that many adults then check themselves a bit as I call out to the kids. Reflexes of response are hard to shake.
We use cloth napkins. We usually have wine. We go around the table, oldest to youngest, and share our happy-favorite day and sad-favorite day and then water someone’s flowers…if we are so moved. It can take 30 min if we are efficient and has gone hours when we’re not. Everyone gets a moment of focused attention.
We are fed body, mind and spirit. Dinner is more than what ends up on the plate. It is laughter, stories, shaping, sharing and building the narrative that is us.