Friday, February 18, 2011

In Which I Am Surprised to Agree with a NY Times Column on Food. And Parenting.

Normally, when I read the NY Times on parenting, I don't recognize myself, and when I read the NY Times on food, I think "yes, in a perfect world... i.e., not my world." But today, I came across an awesome column from the NY Times on cooking, via @cydharrell's twitter feed. (If you aren't following her, you should. The haiku's alone are worth it!) The column is apparently the last in a series that I missed because I have decided that the NY Times adds more stress to my life than joy.  The column was called "Cooking with Dexter", by Pete Wells, and was presumably about cooking with kids (Dexter is his son). The last column is about how hard it is to get home-cooked meals on the table during the week. To which I can only say "AMEN".

Between my sporadic Dinner during Dora series and my occasional rants on food- specifically how just the fact that I use food someone else made (i.e., "processed food") should not mean that I am feeding my kids (and myself) unhealthily. I love this quote from the article:

"Instead of cajoling people to get “back” into the kitchen and shaming them into avoiding processed foods, it might be more helpful to work on turning out proc­essed foods and fast foods that taste like more than just salt and grease and that don’t make kids fat and sick."

YES. EXACTLY THAT. Let's stop trying to force our lives back to a time when we could devote a lot of time to cooking and start trying to make the way we live now healthy. Are you listening food companies? There is a market here!

We have decided to prioritize family dinners, and since so much of the processed foods that are currently available are unhealthy, we do try to eat more home cooked meals than not. (I also like the idea of my girls seeing that cooking is a normal thing to do- and, since Hubby does most of the weekend cooking- that it is a thing men and women both do.) However, this only works because things in our life are aligned perfectly to allow it. We've split our work shifts slightly, so that I get to work between 8 and 8:30 and leave at 4:30 (I don't take a lunch break- I eat at my desk).  We live relatively close to work, and day care is also close to work, so by leaving at 4:30, I can usually count on being home by 5:30 (if I didn't have to do the day care pick up, I'd be home before 5). That gives me roughly 30 minutes from when I walk in the door to dinner time, so I generally have time to nurse Petunia, throw on a show of some sort, and make a quick recipe in the kitchen. But if anything goes wrong- I have a late meeting, Pumpkin insists on finishing a game at day care, traffic is worse than usual.... well, it all falls apart.

Even when it works, it is stressful. More days than not, at least one of the girls spends some time crying or whining while I cook and can't give her the attention she wants. And then there's the end result- I have my go to recipes from my go to cookbooks, but I get bored with them, and miss the wider range of recipes we ate before we had kids. So I'm constantly looking for new recipes, a search complicated by the fact that Pumpkin is an extremely picky eater.  And, because I don't really like most vegetables but feel that I should be eating them as a model to my girls, I am constantly searching for quick recipes that will make vegetables palatable to me. I've got a couple of cookbooks home from the library that I think might help with those things. But it is late, and I'm tired, so I'm going to go to bed. But if you have the same problems I do, stay tuned- I think I'll have a post on cookbooks coming up soon!


  1. I'm impressed that you work so hard to make home-cooked meals for the whole family, and with such little time available to do it. 30 minutes to nurse Petunia AND make dinner? That makes you a hero!

    I love to cook, and right now I'm on maternity leave, so if the stars are aligned and neither kid needs me desperately at the wrong time in the evening, I can often get a home-cooked meal on the table on weeknights. Also, my in-laws help out with the kids enormously, so they can often pinch hit at dinnertime.

    BUT... in September I'll go back to work, and I'll have an hour commute, and then I know I'll be doing a lot more "processed" stuff just to keep the family sane. Even NOW I feel I'm often having to choose between a family meal and getting le Petit into bed without letting his bedtime slide 30 minutes.

    So, yeah, no solutions -- and anyone who implies that the problem is just that I don't value home cooking enough hasn't tasted my homemade tarte tatin!

  2. My current go to cookbook is The Instant Cook by Donna Hay. I think the subtitle is 'Fresh food fast' or something like that (I've got a sleeping baby in my arms otherwise I'd go look it up).

    My family has always prioritized family dinners - I have a lot of 'family dinner' memories - they're often loud and a lot of fun. My husbands family has also always prioritized family dinners. They still do. Unfortunately, this can mean a *very* late dinner when waiting for my FIL (a rural family doctor) to turn up home. I have to admit to being completely thrown when we stayed with my BIL & his kids (aged 4 & 2) ate individual meals at the coffee table at about 5pm. My original plan for Moo (feed her what they were eating when they ate) was out the window.

    Anyway, I've been thinking about writing my own food post - so maybe I'll do that rather than write a really long comment.

  3. 1. Trader Joes! Sorta processed, of course, but their premade meals beat anything I've seen. Also, the new frozen sweet potato gnocchi meets all our food requirements- fast and full of veggies (adults) buttery and sweet (4-y-o) squishy enough for gumming (9-m-o). Add in some precooked grilled chicken (either from them or your own) and some frozen peas and we have a meal.
    2. Thanks be to the NYT for printing an article about food that makes real life sense
    3. Crock pot. I thumbed my nose at them until grad school. Many of the Martha Stewart/William Sonoma recipes we love taste just as good or better after sitting in the slow cooker all day.

  4. Like @Parisienne, I'm super impressed too. I'm not much of a cook but it's one of the things I am trying to improve this mat leave. What has been working for me is 1) meal planning on the weekends so I have the groceries I need on hand during the week and 2) casseroles. DS is in preschool in the mornings and DD can usually be counted on to take a decent morning nap, so I am using that time to prep a dinner that I can just throw in the oven later in the day. I find the dinner hour just too crazy to try to cook because both kids are usually a little tired/screechy at that point and I'm usually tired too. I was thinking that if I get a decent stockpile of casserole recipes together when I return to work I could prep the casserole in the evening - even pre-cooking if necessary, and then it would be ready for the next night.

    Great article - thanks for turning me on to it.

  5. Anonymous8:36 AM

    We've started relying heavily on CostCo for dinner. They have great prepared meals, many of which are prepared fresh in the store, some of which are also quite healthy. The parent that isn't putting Monkey down for bed is in charge of getting dinner together, and the prepared meals mean we don't wait until 8pm to eat!

  6. Ditto on the "I'm impressed" comments! I can't cook for shizz. And your post header made me laugh out loud! ;)


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