In my heart I don’t think of myself as a creature of habit. No, in my heart I’m a free-floating, life-unstructured, in-the-moment driven, ball of spontaneity bouncing from one day, one season, one year to the next, routine and schedule be darned.
My heart lies.
Over my (many) adult years I’ve seen patterns form and have realized a few things about myself:
▪ If my bed is unmade within an hour of waking, my whole day feels ruined.
▪ I can only get work done if I’m wearing shoes.
▪ Pacing myself with a good book, a good Netflix series or gardening is so hard that I stopped trying to pace myself.
▪ My decorating method: Pick a style; buy everything place, paint and install three-fourths of it; leave the rest undone and my eye will train itself to ignore the incompletely painted wall, uninstalled shelving and unhemmed curtains.
▪ I love to cook until I hate to cook and when I hate to cook I am not very good at it.
▪ I hate to cook from May to August.
“This doesn’t taste like it usually does,” my husband told me as he took a bite of dinner. His face said that this wasn’t a compliment.
“I made it the same way I always do,” I told him. When I took a bite, I knew he was right. I could have told him exactly why: I used too much flour in the roux and didn’t let it cook long enough before I added the other ingredients; I forgot to put pepper in it; my blend of vegetables was based on what bags were half full in the freezer and I didn’t cook the biscuits long enough.
I could have told him that but I didn’t.
“Tastes the same to me, it’s probably your taste buds.”
Dinner the next night wasn’t much better, I forgot the water chestnuts and put too much corn starch in the stir fry sauce.
The next couple of nights I defaulted to leftovers and sub sandwiches, but dinner was really late and my heart wasn’t in it…it probably won’t be for the next several months.
Another thing I have realized over the years: My family requires dinner most nights. The obvious solution would be to assign cooking to someone else, but this is my job. It always has been and even a week of uninspired, bland meals isn’t going to change that. The memory of years of delicious spring, fall and wintertime dinners keep me as chief cook in this family. I have dug my hole by the stove and now I must live in it.
But all those years that proved to me that this is a regularly scheduled, seasonal personal-issue also taught me a few tricks that will get my family fed this summer:
▪ Google “dinner salads” and print out the ones that look good. Salads are usually quick and having a recipe in hand helps make sure every item gets on the shopping list.
▪ Use the sale code given in ads on a lot of podcasts to give a meal delivery service a try. Someone else does the planning, the shopping, the recipe writing and, well, sorry — you still have to do the actual cooking but tell yourself with conviction that it’s fun to try new things and you might believe yourself.
▪ Breakfast supper is totally a thing; take-out is also a thing.
▪ Assign at least a week one night a week to someone else. Hey, kids! Guess what you’re doing this summer!
▪ Never underestimate the dinner power of good deli meat, cheese, salads and fancy bread.
Finally, in the big life picture, having a dinner on the table is more important than what that dinner is.And realizing that makes each one delicious.