I called a family meeting tonight.
For a while now I've noticed that the kids aren't eating what I'm making them. I'll spend an hour or so in the kitchen, serve them, watch them take a few bites then ask to be excused. I end up throwing away plates of food or shoving it into containers I know full well will never be opened again and then spending the rest of my night doing the dishes in a bad mood.
Maybe it's because they're getting older and more independent. And that's fine, and as it should be. But if I don't make them dinner, thinking they'll just fend for themselves somehow, come 9:30 or so they shoot me gravely injured looks. "Mom," they say. "You never made dinner."
I'm a big believer in the family meal, in sitting down at the table and breaking bread together. I ate in front of the TV growing up and look how I turned out. I want my kids to have a better upbringing. Or at least a better sense of the place of family and food.
Hence the family meeting. The objective: Identify five or six meals they would eat for dinner.
The problems were manifest from the start.
"Okay," I said, sitting between them with a pen and a pad of paper. "Let's start by getting your very favorite dinner."
"Burritos!" They agreed.
"Something I make here," I clarified.
"Well," said the Drama Teen. "I love stir fry. You can make more of that."
"I HATE stir fry," said the boy. "Especially the tofu that you let sit in a bath of soy sauce..."
"It's called 'marinating.' And you both used to love tofu..."
"Not the way you make it now."
I make a note on my pad, plus a mental note not to buy him the next Minecraft mod packet.
"Okay. What else?"
They think for a minute.
"I love shepherd's pie!" said the boy. "I could eat three bowls of that."
"I hate shepherd's pie!" said the girl. "I can't even stand the smell of it. Remember that time when you made it, like, every week for months?" Mostly I remember friends at Trader Joe's laughing at me. "Shepherd's pie again?" they'd yell across the store, upon seeing the ingredients in my basket. "Don't you know how to make anything else?"
Moving on. They both like stuffed peppers. Okay. Time-consuming, and I'm trying to get away from meat, but maybe I can chop up some tofu and....
The boy shoots me a look that suggests I stick with the ground beef. Okay, okay, okay...
We continue to brainstorm. And they continue to demonstrate their opposing palates.
The girl loves chick pea masala over rice. The boy doesn't. The boy loves a nice omelette or scrambled eggs with toast, the girl doesn't. The girl loves my tortilla. The boy, meh.
They both like soups. "A variety of soups," says the boy. "I loved that potato one you made the other day." The teenager shrugged. "It was okay, I guess."
They both enjoy the lentil soup, although neither one wants the dollop of yogurt in the middle, which for me sends it over the top. I keep threatening to teach them how to make it themselves, so that they might launch with at least one decent dish that is not pasta under their belts.
Speaking of which, they'll both eat spaghetti and meatballs. "But it's got to have meatballs," emphasized the boy. Why? "Because they taste good." Sigh. Meanwhile the girl, who would eat a hamburger every day if I let her, doesn't care for meatballs, and will leave hers on the plate.
Pasta is always something they'll eat, but there's only so much pasta you can eat in a week. And they like it differently. The boy loves pesto. The girl likes it with tomato sauce. She likes it with chick peas and rosemary and onions. The boy would rather eat it with butter and Parmesan. He likes mac and cheese; she, not so much.
"I can eat five wraps at a time!" yelled the Teen. This is the lavash bread spread with avocado, seasoned with salt and pepper, and wrapped around veggie bacon and sliced cherry tomatoes that I discovered at the Trader Joe's sample kiosk several years ago.
"I can eat seven!" screamed the boy.
Note to self: plant an avocado tree.
They both love my one sure thing: vegetable couscous, although the boy was less vocally enthused than the girl.
By the end of our little family meeting, precious little had been resolved. Only that my kids do like what I cook, but they like what they like and ne'er the twain shall meet.
So it was decided that I will cook for them every night, and if it's something the other simply can not tolerate, I will look the other way while they eat breakfast cereal for dinner.
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