Sunday, August 14, 2011

Learning to Cook Again

It's like riding a bike, I think. Once you know how to cook, you never really forget. It just takes a little warming up to get comfortable with it again.

I will admit something here. You know how I was always a fantastic cook, right? How I loved to bake
(and am good at it) but gave up baking, for the most part, because the sugar and flour just isn't good for me and my family? And how I loved to make healthy dinners that everyone enjoyed?

That stopped. It's kind of embarrassing, really, but it just got to be too much for me for awhile. For the last six months or so, the family dinners almost petered out completely. This isn't good. I have always felt strongly that we need to gather as a family, especially with teens, for dinner each night to connect and enjoy each other. But things changed. At first I was doing fine making foods that worked well on Medifast (chicken, beef, lean pork, whatever meat along with some plain veggies or salad) and also making a whole grain or some mashed potatoes or that kind of thing for the rest of the family. But it got to be just too much for me. I couldn't prepare foods in the ways I wanted to because I had to count all the spices, condiments, seasonings, etc. Casseroles were out because I had to measure my protein and veggie portions carefully. And then, the thing with older teens is that they can be annoyingly picky and/or ungrateful about food sometimes (not how they were raised... just a phase, I think). So I'd spend all this time and effort planning, shopping, prepping, making the meal, getting it on the table, and then one of three things would happen:

1. We sit down, people eat but at least some of them obviously aren't fond of what I made (they know better than to complain, but they'd pick and not eat much).

2. We sit down, but half of the family or more is gone to work, fishing, skateboarding, or on a sleepover. So I basically would prep a big meal and then end up with maybe one kid there to eat it.

3. We sit down and eat and they all enjoy it, but my gosh, do teen boys inhale food or what?? I spend an hour cooking and they inhale it all in 5 minutes, say "thanks Mom!" and run back out the door.

Always, it was a lot of work, and I got tired of it. All the prep, the table setting (which kids did help with sometimes) and the cleanup. I HATE getting up from dinner and having a whole kitchen to clean, a table to clear, and pots and pans to wash. But it was like pulling teeth to get anyone to help. So I quit cooking.

"They'd rather eat burritos anyway," I thought. So I bought frozen stuff, pizzas, had bread and lunch meats and fruits on hand. I'd just cook or throw something together for myself and my daughter. She and I would eat together. Let the others fend for themselves. They're all in high school and college. They didn't mind at all.

But I mind. I mind not having meals together at least once a day. I mind letting them eat junk, even though I know they prefer it. It's a thankless job sometimes, cooking for teens, but now I am cooking for ME. I am doing this for myself AND my family. And they can help with cleanup or be grounded. Simple.

I think (and hope) they will appreciate it over time, knowing there is a hot meal on the table at 6pm every night. I think in time I will have each of them cook a couple nights a month, since they do know how, just to give Mom a break. It seems like a lot of work for me NOW, but I believe it will be worth it.


Theresa said...

I think it was Jamie Oliver who said a young person should not leave home without knowing how to cook a minimum of ten things. That isn't ripping open a box top either! :) Kids cooking 2x a month is a great idea.

Anonymous said...

What a great idea ! Sounds like a good plan. All your kids will be thankfull for that.

timothy said...

eating together is a great way to have family time. you catch up on everyone day and share. that's waht family is all about! xoxoxoxo

beerab said...

I love to cook. So far it's mostly only for hubby and myself (unless we have friends over) and I used to get annoyed when he didn't like my food. But like you said- this is about ME- I am cooking for ME and what I like to eat. If he doesn't eat it then that's more for me! I like to take leftovers for lunch at work rather than prepare a lunch- so now I don't get offended anymore ;)

I think having your kids prepare dinner now and then is great! Then they can appreciate how much work you put into making dinner and I am sure next time you cook they'll eat whatever it is with relish knowing that THEY didn't cook it! ;)

I work hard now to cook everything from scratch so that when we have children they will like the healthy stuff and not only want junk :)

Bonnie said...

As we changed our diets we found that if each person made what they wanted for dinner or at least contributed to preparation (even the little guys) we enjoyed sitting down together even when we were all eating different things. It's the company not the casserole that counts!

And I agree with the other commenters, anyone over 5 can contribute to the meal preparation.

Anonymous said...

get outta my head woman. :D are you a fly on the wall here or what? TOTALLY relate to this one! I have totally given up on my 20 yr. old daughter knowing how to cook, how to shop,plan, prepare, clean up and how to even eat nutritiously. But it is not for lack of trying thru the years. she's just 99.9% resistant to anything at this point in her life except pizza, ramen and eggs. I'm trying to learn how to accept it. Allie

LHA said...

Keep cooking! You won't regret it. My kids are older and almost all are out of the house now, and I regret that I kind of gave up cooking for the same reasons that you did. Now when they are all home we cook together and I really enjoy having the chance to cook with and for them on these rare occasions. Even if they don't eat everything you cook, or even if they don't always show up for dinner, stay the course and enjoy cooking for them and for yourself and your little girl. Even enjoying a family dinner part of the time is a treat you won't always have the option to do. Good luck on both the cooking and the eating!

Steelers6 said...

Sounds like a great plan. Let us know how it goes,'k? Maybe you could even intro it gradually, by saying everyone is expected to be home by 5:15 or so on M, W, & Sat, or something like that. And if they can't come home early to help prepare, then they are clean up committee.

While we are talking about teen tasks, remind me if the older kids all do their own laundry?


Lyn said...


Yep, all my kids were taught to do their own laundry when they turned 8 years old. They each have a hamper and they wash/dry/fold their clothes. SO glad I did that now! So I only have to wash clothes for myself and my 6 year old.

RhubarbLady said...

Oh, oh, oh!!! Yet another post I can relate to! My 13 year old made yummy light pumpkin pancakes for dinner tonight and we have fresh raspberries and bananas to eat with the pancakes. I'm trying to talk my two teens into each taking one night a week to make dinner and I'm willing to help as long as they are doing at least 51% of the work. This includes doing the dishes after (and we don't have a dishwasher.)

And my kids do their own laundry too!

deezer said...

I think its really good to have dinner with your family - and to encourage them to get it together and cook too. I have friends who live at home, but are working/ studying, and they have to make dinner for the family once a week. its a great way for them to understand what it takes to make a meal - only to have some one not appreciate it!

Go on the way you are going - you're doing great!!

Dillypoo said...

"They can help with cleanup or be grounded." Go, Mom!!!

Karen said...

Yikes...I just did the same thing for Ed when I went grocery shopping this week. He got all the "easy" stuff like casseroles, hot dogs, and pizza while I bought healthier salad and fish and things like that for myself. I need to figure out a way to feed BOTH of us a healthy diet that won't lead me to binge.