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Susan Vollenweider | What’s for dinner?

Did you know that if you Google, “What’s for dinner?” you won’t get an answer?

You will get a lot of responses, probably more than you need and you’ll be able to click until your clicker wears out. The internet is full of blogs and websites devoted to dinner — not only making it but making it easier to prepare.

You’ll get lots of recipes, pictures and downloadable tools to help streamline planning and shopping. I found an app that helps create a dinner menu based on your own available ingredients, and a kid’s game that simulates the cooking experience.

What I didn’t find was an answer to the question that is asked of me every single day.

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”

“I don’t know,” I sometimes answer, “what are you making?”

“Very funny,” they will say, humoring me because they know that I am the easiest path to a plate of tasty food. Then they will pause, ponder strategy and seriously ask, “No, really, what’s for dinner?”

We’ll go over to the menu that is tacked to the fridge and we’ll all know.


I’m one of those home cooks who writes a menu once a week. Moments after I write the menu I will whip up a grocery list and within a few hours most of the ingredients for the week’s dinners are in the house.

Which makes me sound so much more on the ball than I really am.

Sometimes I miss ingredients. I didn’t see them on the shopping list, they weren’t available or they were cost prohibitive. When that happens, I usually forget to amend the printed menu. There have been some mighty disappointed diners when the menu says, “Pork Chops” but the price was beyond what I was willing to spend and I purchase kielbasa instead. Or I totally blanked in the pasta aisle and, days and 30 minutes before supper, wonder what I’ll serve with the meat sauce. (The answer, apparently, is not kielbasa. Just trust me.)

I know that every dinner isn’t going to be a universal winner. One person doesn’t like Mexican, another only likes plain chicken, and a third insists on pizza every night. But I contribute to the battles, too. It’s summertime and hot. Who wants to cook when it’s hot? Not me.

“What’s for dinner?” I don’t know, what goes with that whine?

“What’s for dinner?” When the day has gotten ahold of me at sunrise and shook me like a rag doll until suppertime, I want to say, “Pizza. Go answer the door and pay the delivery person.”

But we never do that. I don’t know why. I don’t even know if we can get delivery pizza in my town, that’s how often we don’t order. Ditto Chinese. Or any kind of carryout. We have food at home, and I am capable of preparing it so I should just stop dawdling. I got myself into this by serving something most nights (even if it’s pancakes, and if you’ve never had pancakes for supper you are missing out). I can cook myself out of it. One more dinner won’t kill me.

Some nights when I hear the question, “What’s for dinner?” I know that the answer goes beyond food; I know what else is for dinner:

30 minutes of preparation.

5 minutes of nagging to get the table set.

15 minutes of eating.

30 minutes of cleanup.

And, as I am drying off my hands or putting the broom away after sweeping the kitchen, I know what will happen then, too.

“Mom, I’m hungry. What’s for dessert?”