Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's For Dinner?

This is the age-old problem. We all deal with it differently. Sometimes I just don't deal with it. We eat pancakes and pretend it's something exotic.

Mostly I'm pretty hyper-organized (a nice way of saying, "anal") about dinner. I map out the week's meals on my desk organizer on Sunday. I write up the grocery list, put in notes about when to soak the beans, take out the meat, prep the pot bread. I try to take into account the many practices that my kids have to go to--no highly involved dinner plans on a night that I have to get Samuel to football at 5:00, Grace to soccer at 5:30, pick up Grace at 6:30, Samuel at 7:00. Mostly, I only have drop-off duty, though.

So tonight is a good example of me trying to have something interesting for dinner and also juggle the double practices. Before Samuel's practice I prepped the Cheddar Drop Biscuits. Have I made these before? No. But they sounded good. I'm making Lentil-Vegetable Soup for dinner and the Grissini I thought looked really good and easy to make turned out not so good. I needed a backup and instead of settling for grilled cheese sandwiches (or nothing), went with the biscuits. I ran Samuel up to football, got back at 5:00 with time to hurriedly put the biscuits together and stick them in the oven.

Oh, leaving the house with the oven on? With something in the oven? I have so gotten over worrying about it. It's a new oven, it better not start my house on fire. And if it does, we'll go out for pizza.

I ran (okay, I drove very quickly through the neighborhoods, slowing down where it looked like children or dogs might be lurking) Grace up to her practice, came home to pull the biscuits out and start the soup. By this time Dave had got home so I was off the hook for pick up duty. Hooray!

And now the soup is quietly bubbling on the stove, the biscuits are cold (not the best way to eat them) but ready, and I have time to sip on a glass of wine and reflect on the last two hours. Is this worth it? The running, the chopping, the plotting out to the last detail how long it takes to make a dish, raise some dough, simmer some really tasty and healthy soup? Obviously, yes. It takes a heck of a lot of time and energy to make everything from scratch but in the end I see the benefits everywhere. We seldom get sick, we have energy to do everything that we do, we are fit, and we love food. Good food, real food. And do I feel guilty as hell for being privileged enough to not work outside the home, to be able to provide such bounty when so many cannot afford the time to obsess on whether to make Grissini or Cheddar Drop Biscuits? Yes. Yes and Yes and Yes.

This last Sunday's New York Times Magazine is all about food. Some of it is a little too precious (even if I did "devour" the entire article) as in the Michael Pollan bit about cooking for 36 hours on an outside clay oven with other foodies; other articles address the idea of building community through food, whether in Maine or Alabama or Detroit. The idea of handing out slices of homemade pie on a street corner to initiate conversation particularly struck me. Or planting gardens in the middle of the city where once stood empty lots collecting refuse and graffitti. Food is something everyone has an opinion about--why not use it to open up connections, bring industry at a grassroots level to impoverished neighborhoods, ensure that children and adults have a hand in food production, food consumption?

It seems that perhaps someday in the not-too-distant future maybe I can (or will) turn my attention to food outside the home. There must be some way to make it possible for everyone to eat first and foremost. Then maybe some way to make it possible for everyone to think about what they put in their bodies, to take pleasure in creating, and time to create, a meal out of real food. Big, grandiose plans, maybe a little pie-in-the-sky, but maybe one day you'll see me on the street corner here in my little burg, handing out pieces of pie.

Until then, I'll keep working on the home front, one meal at a time.

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