"What's for dinner?"
Those of us who do the majority of the cooking for the household are accustomed to hearing that question. Usually we have an answer. And usually we don't mind. It's a question asked with expectation. It's actually a sort of compliment. The person asking knows that whatever comes out of that kitchen is going to be good. Their belly is already rumbling in happy anticipation. For the person asking, with honest curiosity, there is at least low level of excitement at the prospect of a yummy meal. For the person being asked, it is sometimes a dilemma.
I enjoy cooking. I honestly do, at least the vast majority of the time. And I especially like cooking for people for whom a meal is not just matter of fueling the machine but also an occasion. It's an opportunity to gather, have good conversation in addition to tasty food, reconnect, relax and be happy. And of course, I love cooking, for people who enjoy what I serve.
So I make an effort, at least most of the time, to bring something really good to the table. A meal that is a pleasure for the eyes and a delight for the palate. I try to cook with a nod toward healthy most of the time but it also has to taste good. I can cook kale all day long in twenty different ways and still nobody in this house is going to eat it. Sorry Kale. No. Just no.
But I find myself sometimes cooking the same things over and over again. And it occurs to me that if I'm bored making it, surely Tim is tired of eating it. He never complains. Not ever. He thanks me for the meal I brought to the table and eats it without a murmur of discontent because he is a gentleman. But it just seems logical to me that if I'm uninterested in what I've made, it can't be all that fun to eat.
And I want to remedy the situation. I have a bit of a reputation for putting decent food on the table for friends and family. I gotta live up to my own rep, right?
So what does the family cook do in that situation? Well this particular family cook starts by taking careful food inventory. What do we already have on hand in the fridge, freezer and pantry. That's step one. I don't want to make a zero hour trip to the grocery store.
Step two is to haul out all of my cookbooks and start looking for something ......different. Something either I've never made or haven't made in a long time. Then I start asking friends and family. Do they have any recipes for whatever it is I'm trying to build a meal around?
For instance, I have one friend back in Colorado who shares recipes with me regularly. We email each other nearly every day. And one of the things we often mention in our daily missives is what we are planning to make for dinner. Often we inspire one another with ideas and that is fun. Perhaps she mentions that she is making chicken enchiladas for dinner. When I read that I might think, Hey I haven't made that in a long time! Great idea. And I have another friend back in CO has told me before that she loves when I post a picture of a meal I made on facebook because sometimes it reminds her of a dish to make at her house. I love how we help each other out that way.
Occasionally, I resort to looking recipe ideas up on line. While I have had some successes with that, it's not a rock solid answer. For whatever reason, I have found that I do better researching multiple recipes for the same dish first, reading them all, and then kind of drawing a bit of information from each of them and creating yet another version works the best for us. That's how I learned how to make gumbo actually. I read probably a dozen different recipes for gumbo on line and then I got really smart and googled, "Best tips for making gumbo" and there it was; a short list of 5 things that were essential to good gumbo. And that list was correct. It turned out marvelously!
Every once in awhile, I get all mad-scientistish and just start creating on my own. I have had some of my best successes and likewise some of my biggest failures via this method. I have no idea what comes over me but occasionally, I just get an idea in my head and things start happening in the kitchen where only my imagination and creativity are in control. It's so much fun! But there are downsides. I can think of several off the top of my head:
First, if it turns out really horribly, dinner still needs to be provided and I have nothing else planned so it's omelets or sandwiches for dinner! Second, I just threw in the trash about umptyump dollars worth of product and I do hate waste. But the third poor outcome is that the meal was fabulous and because I was totally winging it, I can never reproduce it. Ratz!~
When I am in a wild and crazy create-a-brand-new-dish mode, somehow, Tim can always tell. Maybe there is an extra sparkle in my eye, or a madness in the air, I'm not sure. But he will approach the kitchen carefully and say, "Uhoh, she's at it again". Damned right I am and I'm having fun doing it too. Tim does not worry about it. Either it's a great idea or, in his words, "Domino's Delivers".
So here we are. It's around 9:30 am right now and I have no idea yet what I am making for dinner. If you have any suggestions, bring 'em on. What are you fixing for dinner tonight?
And oh, by the way, if you noticed that in the top photo of my pots and pans in the cabinet it appears that I have no pot lids? I do. I have plenty. I just store them separately. I don't know why, but I've always done it that way. See?
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.