Feb 16, 2023
*This post was originally published in November 2020 as part of a blog for a writing course.
Our family has had to incorporate some changes to our old routines in order to make life easier with Mom (that's me) back in school full time. Prior to going back to school I worked part-time from home and was able to make my own schedule, figure out dinner plans last minute and run to the store for ingredients whenever. Now that my weekday schedule is filled with classes and homework and zoom meetings, that's not quite as easy. With the arrival of the pandemic, I had already streamlined my shopping so I wasn't going to the grocery store multiple times a week, so that was helpful in freeing up some time. But the thing that has helped the most was giving the kids one new chore for the week: dinner duty!
They each have a set night they are responsible for making dinner. I remind them over the weekend to send me the recipes they have found on their own (sometimes with suggestions) so I can make sure we have all the necessary ingredients. At thirteen and fourteen they both have a bit of experience in the kitchen either from cooking with me or the few kids cooking classes they've taken during school breaks, but I still keep myself available to answer questions such as:
What kind of pan should I use?
Is this a skillet?
Where's the cumin?
Do I use salted or unsalted butter?
How do I melt the butter?
Why do they call it corned beef if it doesn't have corn?
Do I cut the onion this way or this way?
Why am I crying?
There has been some necessary encouragement to get more adventurous in their choices since in the beginning my daughter wanted to make pasta every. single. week. They were at least different recipes with and without meat because she does NOT like handling raw meat. She actually considered becoming a vegetarian at the beginning of the year but then changed her mind because, in her words, "cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets." My son started out fairly simple with a variety of burgers (beef, turkey, chicken) and even got fancy one week and made french fries from scratch in the air fryer!
This week they were both feeling like Italian, so it was calzones and lasagna on the menu! My daughter made the calzones without any help since they have been making their own pizza dough for a couple years now. The lasagna was a suggestion from me because my husband had mentioned recently how much he liked it and asked why I never make it. When my son was having trouble coming up with a new idea for the week I recommended it, and now I remember why I never make it.
The kitchen was an absolute disaster when he was done! All the different layers and components of lasagna equal a very labor intensive process and since my son is still a novice in the kitchen, he hasn't yet acquired the skill of cleaning up as you go along. I sat at the kitchen counter trying to get some homework done** but also stay available for questions while watching in horror as he covered every surface with bowls, pots, pans, spoons, raw meat wrappers (ew!), cheese, spice jars and so on while the sink simultaneously overflowed with dirty dishes and drawers and cabinets hung open.
In the end the lasagna was absolutely delicious so the mess was totally worth it. My daughter (who previously claimed she didn't like lasagna, which made NO sense since she loves every other form of pasta) also loved it and asked to keep it in the regular dinner rotation. I guess we are all going to get better at making lasagna now!
**Side note: I have to give him some special credit here. The homework I was working on involved formatting a Google Doc, something I have not used much, and I was having a great deal of difficulty. He kept stopping what he was doing to come help me because he's just that sweet, so I had to remind him that making dinner was all the help I needed. He's pretty awesome. And this sums up me and technology...