Mama’s On Strike

My mom cooked a lot of tv dinners and things that required a can opener or an addition of water. I don’t remember her cooking much else. She made bread from scratch that doubled as a paper weight, a barley/green chili casserole that we all inexplicably loved and the best toast ever (the secret was pre-buttering, which inevitably caused a toaster fire in our ancient, second-hand toaster and so our toaster spent a lot of time on the back steps, smoking in the rain, much like my father but minus his cocktail.) Mom never sat down to eat with us. When I was about five years old she declared that she’d never make another Thanksgiving dinner. She kept her word.

After her death, my father carried the torch of prepared food dedication, keeping me on a steady diet of Hamburger Helper, Soup Starter, Van de Camp’s frozen enchiladas and Jello salads (he added all four food groups and any condiments available in our fridge to make it a complete meal.)

Looks and tastes like an alien (image via chloeofthemountain)

Maybe because of this, I developed a strong desire in my twenties to learn to cook from scratch for the express purpose of one day becoming one of those mothers, about whose cooking her children brag. I loved to cook and I pursued it with a singular purpose. I enjoyed pleasing friends with my meals, but always, in the back of my mind, was the goal of one day pleasing my children. Food is love.

Of course this was before I actually gave birth and discovered the futility of my plan. My two lovely progeny only approve of two spices, salt and sugar, will not eat any of the same foods with the exception of chocolate, generally distrust most vegetables and want all of their ingredients to have at least an inch of distance from any other food source. If every meal came in a fast food bag they would live their short, unhealthy lives in pure ecstasy.

Hostess products and chocolate milk are also acceptable.

A couple of nights ago I was feeling uninspired but felt obligated to put something on the table. I grilled some chicken, made some Spanish rice, tossed it together with some beans and fresh salsa and called it a Mexican rice bowl. At Hubs’s prompting everyone offered up a feeble “Thanks Mom. It looks delicious.” and started picking over their plates.

Then Hubs innocently asked, “Is there paper in this?”

Before I could answer, Conor asked to be excused and Riley spit out her mouthful, exclaiming, “This is disgusting. I don’t even care if I get dessert.”

Realizing that he had unintentionally started the avalanche of dinner protests, Hubs tried to back pedal.  “I mean the paper doesn’t taste bad or anything. I think I’m just tired and a little full right now.”

In my defense, let me just say that I don’t cook with processed tree pulp. I once made a sandwich with the paper that separates the cheese slices but I was pregnant and disoriented so you can’t count that. The paper-like substance they detected was brown rice. I love whole grains but the rest of my crew prefer their grains fully bleached and processed, which is coincidentally also how they prefer their paper.

That was the nail in the culinary coffin for me. I’m on a cooking boycott until further notice. If my mom were here I would salute her with a loaf of her 15 pound bread in solidarity.

I will continue to make sure that the kids get a fairly balanced diet throughout the day and we’ll still gather at the dinner table in the evenings to talk about our days over some sort of food–perhaps some pear and cheese or carrots and pretzels. But for now I’m not cooking any evening meals.

My children are already flying the victory flag.

Brown boxes are cool. Brown rice is not.

Has anybody else thrown in the dinner time towel? Or figured out a way to avoid it? Did it involve hiring a personal cook or a child hypnotist?

11 thoughts on “Mama’s On Strike

  1. Leane says:

    Soooooooo frustrating! I struggle with this lately, too. My only tricks are to serve everything in a cupcake pan (beans in one, cheese or chicken chunks in another, a few pieces of pasta, a couple pieces of fruit, etc…) or using a toothpick or skewer to eat. Sadly, I’ve also gone to only spending under $10/dinner and 30 mins or less out of frustration! Turkey meatballs are our saving grace (in sandwiches, pasta, plain!)

    • I have a dream that one day we will all sit down to the same meal in harmony and dinner will be pleasant once again. It’s a humble dream and I hope that it comes true.

  2. Kathy V. says:

    I got around that a long time ago by marrying a man who likes to cook. Or maybe I should say, since I hate to cook, and he doesn’t mind it, he became the cook out of necessity. I try not to say idiotic things like “Is there paper in this?” I mean, seriously. You would be justified if you hit him over the head with a frying pan. Not that I condone domestic violence. Naturally.

  3. Force feed them that terrifying jello mold contraption and tell them that is all they are getting until they start eating whatever you stick on their plates.

    • Seriously. It was terrifying. Midwesterners have a knack for bastardizing food. Well, at the very least my children would have something interesting to tell their therapist later.

      • That’s for sure. I couldn’t take my eyes off that mold. I kept scrolling back up to look at it. I’m going to need to hire a therapist to pry that glob out of my brain stem…where it is undoubtedly laying eggs that will hatch out through my eye sockets.

      • LMAO! That description was nearly as terrifying as the jello mold.

  4. I have no idea if this link will work. It was M night for dinner recently. Mac-n-cheese, mangos, and milk (not pictured). On paper plates.

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