I didn’t cook my family dinner tonight.
Ok. That’s not altogether true.
Technically, I did prepare dinner, but it took very little skill or effort and it wasn’t up to my personal standards of excellence. My roast chicken was store-bought, my broccoli was plainly steamed, and my potatoes wedges were the simplest, one-two step recipe ever.
This is the polar opposite of the usual homemade ravioli/decorate-your-own meatloaf cupcake/caprese-salad kababs concoctions I normally serve my family. But between the drum lessons and badminton team and play practice and Hebrew school and the emergency trip to the dollar store to get supplies for a class project, I just didn’t have the time.
From the second I put that pre-cooked chicken in my grocery cart to the second I set it down on the table, I felt guilty. I thought that my family would think this partially pre-made boring dinner was a cop-out.
But then I sat down at the dinner table with my husband and my son and my daughter. And they ate that pre-made chicken with the same gusto that they ate those meatloaf cupcakes. And my daughter still asked to play the “best part of your day/worst part of your day” game. And my 13-year-old son still made the inappropriate noises that 13-year-old boys make. And my husband still tried not to laugh.
And then it dawned on me. It’s not about the ravioli or the meatloaf or the kababs. It’s about the time we spend together talking…with a side of eating.
Study after study has shown that the more often families eat dinner together, the less likely the kids are to smoke, abuse drugs or alcohol, drop out of school, or suffer from mental health issues like anorexia and depression. The more often families eat together, the more likely kids will eat their vegetables, be polite and respectful, do well in school, and last but not least, have an open and honest relationship with their parents.
I knew all that. But being the perfectionist that I tend to be, I couldn’t just let dinnertime be dinnertime. I had to make every night the perfect, most memorable meal ever.
Not anymore. No longer will I be busy breading my own chicken fingers in lieu of watching my daughter practice her cartwheels or questioning what possessed my son to replace the string on his yoyo with licorice laces.
This doesn’t mean I’ll stop cooking. I L.O.V.E. cooking. It just means that not every night needs to be a night with me playing chef at Chez Cayla. It’s ok for me to serve my family a meal that hasn’t been cooked by me…as long as we eat it together.
P.S. Those potato wedges I mentioned earlier? Here’s the recipe:
Two-step Potato Wedges
Four medium-sized potatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
a sprinkle of sea salt.
Preheat oven to 415
1. Cut potatoes into wedges and place in very cold water for 5 minutes.
2. Dry off really well, toss with oil & salt & bake for 30 min or so, turning them halfway through, until they’re lightly brown.