what happened to ‘dinner?’

We watched the finale of “The Next food Network Star” tonight. One thing that resonated with me (apart from being happy that Guy won, was his mention of the fact that people don’t seem to cook anymore, and Food Network is actually giving people the nudge to get back in the kitchen.

When I was a kid, mom would come home from work and whip up a tuna noodle casserole, baked chicken, shepards pie, baked fish, creamed salmon, or any number of meals that I don’t think I’ve had in about 15-20 years. (except for the fish)
Sure there were ‘TV dinners’ but we knew that wasn’t the healthiest option. Unfortunately (and somewhat surprisingly) my wife and I have succumbed to the bad habit of only eating out of the freezer – after our daughter was born. I did a heck of a lot of cooking the few years prior, and I’m only now just getting back into the swing of things.

Case in point, once every week or so we’ll have fish sticks and fries (or popcorn shrimp) for variety. This is a surefire hit, easy to make, eat and clean up from, but certainly lacking as far as actually cooking goes. We do shop at a Trader Joes and Whole Foods (when we can make a day trip and stock up on things) so we are eating a bit healthier than our options suggest (with everything being as organic as possible is a great plus). Another night would be frozen pizza, or ravioli. No side dishes, no salad course (except when I get on a salad kick and make those everynight until we’re sick of em), and regrettably no dessert course.

My sister and I didn’t really help out too much in the kitchen as kids – sure we could whip up a tuna fish sandwich, or prep some veggies, but cooking just didn’t have the sirens call. Interestingly, as soon as we both left the nest we began to explore our culinary horizons (independent of each other) and began to experiment with all sorts of new recipes. We hung on to some family classics, and created several of our own.

My regular dinner repetoire used to include such diverse (vegetarian) creations as Spinach and Portabello mushrooms with soba noodles, Steamed/Sauteed vegetable medly over udon noodles with a miso/tahini sauce (my wife’s favorite), salad with toasted pine nuts (or pecans) pears and raisins, homemade soups a plenty, a vegan chocolate silk pie you’d almost kill for, homemade breads and more (that seems to slip my mind at the moment).

Bring a baby into the mix, and everything went out the window in favor of the convenience of frozen…

Perhaps thankfully? we had a busy week at work and didn’t get to hit the store to replenish our frozen fare. I was going to actually have to put some thought into dinner and cook something. Somehow intuned to the situation this morning my little girl said she “wanted to make something with her apron on.”

We started off with some raspberry jello – with rasperry lime seltzer to make it interesting. Dinner was a simple – but delicious pasta dish, lemon pepper shrimp and tofu over angel hair. I had to put 2 pots/pans on the stove, and actually used the juice from a real lemon.

The best part was when my daughter finally gave everthing a chance and liked it. She didn’t recognize the shrimp without the breading, but when she finally tasted it she couldn’t get enough – the tofu was a tough sell. We asked her to at least try it. She likes soy milk, so we played up the fact that tofu wasn’t toes (wiggling mine for emphasis) but rather ‘soy milk cheese’. That news she was happy to hear. How great is it to see a 3 year old actually eat such a diverse set of ingredients that most grown ups will actually shun.

There’s a small unadorned wallspace over the counter between the stove and the fridge. I think I’m going to hang a blackboard there so I can write out the weeks menu – restaurant style. If not only for the “creative ambiance”, but to also make the foodshopping a little easier, and break me out of the frozen rut.

Thanks for hitting the nail on the head Guy!

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About Scott

I am a son, brother, husband and father, and I am (or have been and enjoyed being) A student of science, art, and humanities in the states and abroad. A graphic designer, art deparment manager, and an art director. A woodworker, home renovator & preservationist. Vegetarian, organic gardener, cook. Photographer, cartoonist. Runner, judoka and fencer. An actor, writer, director and producer for a student run (but not school affiliated or sponsored) local access variety show. A uomo universale in training! In my spare time I like to read, watch movies and look for other creative pursuits and new inspirations!
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