The girls and I are doing our weekly shopping at the local grocery store. All of the food looks so...pretty. I wonder what it would be like to know what to do with all that pretty shiny produce, all those perfect fillets of fish, all those grains. I wonder what it would be like to be a natural at this cooking stuff.
We head to the deli section, where we wait in line for American cheese, Ms. Finicky's favorite.
"Look really cute," says Ms. Finicky to her older sister. "That way they might give us a slice before they wrap it up."
They beam in unison at the person behind the counter, who smiles back. Success. Free cheese.
Older Daughter notices something. "Mom. Look at all the signs by the salads."
She means the chicken salad and the tuna salad and the egg salad and the potato salad. All of them are labeled: "JUST LIKE MOM'S!"
"Huh," I say. "That's new."
"Yeah. And what if you have a mom--" I can see she is choosing her words carefully.
"What if you have a mom, who, you know, maybe wasn't the best chef? That would be terrible advertising."
"How's it working on you? The advertising." I ask.
She smiles slyly. "You're not THAT bad."
Ms. Finicky, looking like a mouse, peers over the top of her free cheese slice. "Well, SOMETIMES you are. But you're trying. And trying is important."
It's true on both counts. Sometimes I am a terrible chef, but I really am trying. Family dinnertime has surely improved at Chez Jenny, as we've gotten more and more used to being a family of three instead of four. Sure, there've been a few recent muck-ups, but my report card is better this semester. Recently, I've busted out some excellent dinners, including a pan-seared salmon ("I WILL ONLY EAT THE PINK FISH," declared Ms. Finicky. "I LIKE PINK.") that I managed to cook skin-side down, just like Gordon Ramsay taught me. (I also managed to get the thing out of the pan in one piece, which was a major personal culinary victory.)
This fall, I pulled off really good homemade mashed potatoes, mac-and-cheese NOT out of a box, sauteed spinach, lentil soup, chickpea salad, and chicken burritos. Part of the fun watching them grow up is seeing which genes are kicking in when it comes to food preferences. My older daughter is a hot sauce and vinegar junkie like me, and we do it up right when we make burritos, tacos or salads. Zing!
I'm inconsistent as far as cooking goes, but I get a solid B+ for effort. The one thing that is consistent at dinnertime, though? Laughter. Lots and lots of it. And that, my friends, is impossible to screw up. Happy dinners, all!
What do you love most about dinnertime with your family?