A What to Eat pad (from KnockKnock) has been sitting in my basement for over a year now, wedged in between a pile of cookbooks and other assorted items marked “Tag Sale.” Of course when I say “marked” I mean not with a Sharpie or a label or anything, but in the back of my own mind; and when I say “Tag Sale” I of course mean “Event that I’ve been trying to organize for six years but really only serves as justification for not throwing things away.” In any case, two weeks ago, the girls found the “What to Eat” pad while they were unearthing tutus from the old dress-up box (also “marked”) and immediately came sprinting upstairs begging me to give it to them.
“Why?” I asked.
“We want to tell you what we want for dinner this week.”
There’s a chapter in my book called “Getting a Non-Cook on Board” and it outlines all the tasks that can be done by the Non-Cook to help the Cook get dinner on the table. One of these tasks is “The Non-Cook should tell the Cook what to make for dinner.” I remember Lee, my editor and also The Cook of her house, circling this advice and noting in the margin “I’m not sure I’d respond so well to this. You may need to do a little more convincing here.”
What I told her — and what I ended up writing in the book — was that there are so many things besides the actual making of dinner that go into making dinner happen. For me, the cooking part of dinner is the easy part — dare I say, the fun part. The planning part? Not really. Just because I have four thousand meal ideas recorded in my diary doesn’t necessarily mean I’m brimming with inspiration on any given weeknight. (I’ve yet to figure out why not.) So it’s a huge help for me to have someone else think up a plan. I know I’m not alone — I’ve heard from a lot of you that the think-work part of dinner can often be the most paralyzing stage of the process. So having a partner in any phase of the planning (no matter how diminutive that partner may be) helps make the meal more of a shared family goal than an it’s-coming-no-matter-what burden.
This is why I had no problem taking strict orders from our daughters these past two weeks and why the “What to Eat” pads have been rescued indefinitely from the “Tag Sale” pile. I thought you’d like to see the line-ups they came up with.
Phoebe’s Weekly Dinner Plan (March 19-23)
Monday: Salmon Salad (above, recipe in my upcoming book)
Tuesday: Roast Chicken with Mashed Potatoes (Didn’t have time for full-on roast bird, so ended up cheating a bit and making quick BBQ drumsticks)
Wednesday: OUT! (It was easy to follow this order!)
Thursday: Burgers with Pickles
Friday: Sausages with Baked Beans
Abby’s Weekly Dinner Plan (March 25-31)
Sunday: Chicken with Artichokes “Yum”
Monday: Homemade Pizza “We get to pick the toppings” (we just had a basic marinara & mozz on a no-knead Jim Lahey pizza crust)
Tuesday: Lamb Chops with Abby’s Salad*
Wednesday: Chicken Tacos “with optional toppings”
Thursday: Pork ragu & pasta (we had this in the freezer; do not attempt to make this from scratch on a weeknight — you will never forgive me)
Friday: Out! SUSHI! (They wound up eating at their Aunt Lynn’s house instead.)
Saturday: Salmon with “tereaki and yummy flavor”
*Abby’s salad = “crispy lettuce” with tomatoes, carrots, miso-ginger dressing. She likes to make this herself.