A few weeks ago we were running low on food and, in an attempt to not go to the grocery store for ingredients but to instead use what we had on hand and stick to our grocery budget, I made something I haven't made in years: oatmeal. But to soften the healthy blow, I added cocoa and sugar. CHOCOLATE oatmeal. I mean, chocolate makes blah things tolerable, right?
Every single person for whom I'd made the meal complained.
I listened to their spectrum of complaints (some were just a simple "Oh, what is this? Do I have to eat it?" to the full "Oh yuck! I no wanna eat dis!"), told them Sorry, that's all we have and you have to finish it, then told my husband after dinner that I'm not cooking anymore. Again later that evening, when I wasn't as irritated, I told him that I was serious: No more cooking by me.
The planning and the budgeting and the preparing and the cleaning for a group of people who take turns complaining (even though they're tiny complaints) at the meal before finishing what I've put before them? No thank you.
The first night that cooking fell to my husband we ordered pizza (which was not in the budget, by the way, but at least I wasn't cooking) and the second night we had a mishmash of sandwiches for some, smoothies for others, and leftovers to round it out.
Since then I've helped my husband with the cooking. He works 10-hour days so the planning and the shopping and the preparing can't all fall to him. Mostly I've been buying meat on sale and throwing it in the slow cooker mid- morning at his request. But then he gets it and the vegetable all ready for us at dinner and he's been doing the cleaning. It's been a nice break for me.
Then one Sunday morning I came down the stairs to the children eating their breakfast when Little Missy, one of the two biggest complainers, looked down at her breakfast and she said, "Mommy, I like your food and I want you to cook for us. I'm sorry I complain." I rubbed her back and kissed her head and promised her someday.
Thursday night I made my first foray back into cooking and I did it big: lasagna with garlic bread for dinner and cheesecake for dessert (we never never never have dessert; sweets are always saved for our afternoon Treat Time).
We sat at the table and Baby Chickadee promptly said, "Ooh, what is dis? I no wanna eat it" and then made the face that her sister also makes when she doesn't like something: one eyebrow raised while the other eye strains closed.
Page 2 of 2 - Little Missy immediately shot a look at her sister. "Don't say that, Baby Chickadeee! Don't complain!" And when my complainer told her sister not to complain, I figured we'd made some headway.
They all sweetly gobbled up the dinner and we loved our cheesecake.
So I'm gingerly back. I'm dipping my toe back in the water of cooking and hoping for better. Because there are few things so satisfying as preparing a yummy meal for the family you love.
Erin Fox is a weekly columnist for the Augusta Gazette.