This summer I cooked, put on plates and gave my kids the dinner that is perhaps the nadir of my family dinner making experience. Or maybe the apex - depends on how you look at it. But before I tell you what that is, let me give you the parameters of this particular dilemma.
1. When I was a kid, my mom made dinner almost every night and we sat around the table and ate it. She made a salad every night. Dinner and a salad. Just about every night. The table was set. Milk was poured and we all sat down together.
As a kid I liked this. And when I had kids this was the benchmark in my head. This is the way family dinners look.
So, there's that.
2. I have my own food issues, none of them pretty. My brother was a high school wrestler and constantly trying to make weight, which meant that he rarely ate during the winter. At Thanksgiving Dinner he would go for a run instead of sit down. So, I ate his food. I ate all the food I could sneak under my bed, or eat on the way home from the grocery store. Tim's big treat when he was a wrestler was Pop Tarts. He could have Pop Tarts. And he was allowed to keep them in his room so I wouldn't eat them.
Oh, man. That's crazy.
3. I also care just enough (just barely enough)about what my kid's eat that we don't eat a lot of fast food. If I need a night off, I live in a city where I can get sushi delivered, so I skip the burgers and fries. When the kids were little I chose to puree a lot of their food on my own, instead of buying jars of it. Actually - I did that with my first born. My daughter ate a lot more jarred food. But still - I think about preservatives. I think about sodium. I prefer to give my family whole foods.
I fail at this a lot. So I have this guilt...
4. My son used to be a little garbage disposal. There was nothing he wouldn't eat. It was actually a game with my husband and I. Will Mick eat Blue Cheese? YES! He'll eat Blue Cheese. Will Mick eat pickled onions? YES! He'll eat pickled onions. So, perhaps he's rebelling against that now, but he's become picky. Really picky. Nothing with tomato sauce. Very few things that are green. No sauces. No soups. Nothing mysterious. Nothing touching another thing.
He'll eat eggs. Eggs in every variation (maybe I should try pickled?) but no pizza. No pasta. No cooked vegetables.
Eggs. Bacon. Raw fruits and vegetables - those are the things he'll eat without any kind of fight or upturned nose.
5. Dinner is my domain. It fell to me because I used to love to cook. Dinner parties were fun. New recipes. Farmer's Markets. I loved all that stuff. Having lots of time and all the food I need in the fridge - a delight! But that so rarely happens on a Wednesday night. Wednesday night I usually forget to take the chicken out of the freezer and the lettuce I thought was still good - is actually a liquified mess in my crisper.
6. All of this is compounded by an internet full of mom blogs by women who manage to plan, shop for and prepare week's full of wholesome family dinners with things like pureed squash hidden inside for extra nutrition - and their kid's eat it! There's proof! Because there are pictures of her happy, healthy kids eating the food on the blog.
So - this is the circle of hell family dinner can be for me. (Probably for most of us).
And with all of this in mind one summer evening, lettuce liquified in the drawer, frozen chicken on the counter, bitterness and guilt in my heart - I prepared for my family:
A pound of bacon and a bag of raw carrots.
They loved it. They ask for it now.
I should have taken a picture.