I’m gonna come right out and say something pretty crazy right now. Please don’t think less of me, OK? Ready? Here we go:
I really don’t like coming home to a dinner that’s already made. Or one that just needs to be reheated in the oven at 350°F for 20 minutes. Or ladled out of a crockpot.
Right about now the vinyl should be screeching. What the…? Hey, aren’t you supposed to be the one preaching efficiency? The one who tells us to start dinner in the morning, to assemble a big batch of grains or freezer meatballs on the weekend, to whisk a vinaigrette on a Sunday…all in the name of throwing together something quickly when it’s 6:30 on a weeknight, aka Go Time?
Yes, and well, no. Obviously, it’s how we are forced to cook most of the time. But I’m convinced that those kinds of dinners are not the ones that will convert dinner infidels into believers. This is what I hear from readers all the time: It’s so frustrating to spend all that time making a meal, getting all those dishes dirty, only to have my kids reject their food in five seconds flat. I hear you. I totally, 100% do. The reason why our spring garden is a tangle of overgrown weeds and why I don’t own one of those cute hand shovels (my friend Bonnie, upon hearing that, informed me “Jenny, that’s like not owning a spatula”) is because I have yet to embrace the weeding and planting and tending involved in gardening. And I never pay attention to which plants need mostly shade or mostly sun. And because I hate that feeling when my hands get all dry and cakey. But THE POINT IS….like dinner, gardening is about the process. The reason why Bonnie and all you green thumbs out there love to garden is because you love to be outside, digging in the dirt, every day investing in something that will pay back in beautiful dividends. And you lunatics probably even love that dry caked-dirt feeling on your hands, too. (more…)
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Tags:family dinner pep talk
When I first typed out the recipe for this very forgiving flatbread pizza, I added the word “optional” after “freshly grated nutmeg” and “fresh thyme” and then thought long and hard about why. For as long as I’ve been editing recipes I’ve been using “optional” as a way to say “I realize this is an ingredient you might not have on hand” or “I realize this is an extra step you might not want to take on a night that allows for not a single extra step” or “If this is the ingredient that makes dinner a deal-breaker with your kid, by all means omit!” Have you noticed that you don’t ever come across “optional” in a serious recipe collection? (A quick flip through The Essential New York Times Cookbook, The Babbo Cookbook, and The Classic Italian Cookbook just confirmed this.) I’m guessing their philosophy is: If you’re going to do it, DO it. I love and embrace this philosophy. But I love and embrace it mostly on the weekend.
Here’s what you need to know about any of the Quick recipes on this site: Within reason, almost all the ingredients in any recipe are optional — or at the very least replaceable. This is especially true if not having the ingredient in question derails your plans for what was going to be a home-cooked dinner. (more…)
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Tags:family dinner pep talk·meatless monday
Oh man, Pete Wells! I was so sad to read that this week’s “Cooking with Dexter” column (“Busy Signal”) is going to be his last for the New York Times Magazine. I’ve always appreciated how honestly he writes about the way food and family intersect — as you’ll read in his swan song, he never pretended cooking dinner for his kids with a full-time demanding job (in addition to writing this column, he’s the editor of the Times Dining Section) was easy or in any way regular. His wife has the more flexible work schedule so she’s the one who keeps the weeknight dinner train running. And most of the time, Wells concedes, he isn’t there for it. Or, when he is, he sometimes finds himself spending a harried half hour dredging fish fillets in homemade breadcrumbs instead of doing what he should be doing: heating up something from the freezer and chilling out with his kids. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself in this position. It happens less now — now that I’m the wife with the flexible work situation, and now that the kids are older and not as whiny about wanting to eat right this second — but when it does, I think the same thing: Who am I supposed to be connecting with here? The kids or the chicken thighs? Which inevitably leads to Tomorrow night is Trader Joe’s Pizza Night. (more…)
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Tags:family dinner pep talk·meatball sandwich with cheese·meatball sandwiches·pete wells cooking with dexter