Chicago mom asks: WTFs for dinner?

I hate making dinner for my family.

There, I said it.

I figure after nearly 18 years of marriage, four kids and countless guests I have cooked more than my share. So, when my children ask me that dreaded question, “What’s for dinner?” I feel as though someone put me in that movie Groundhog Day and I’ll never escape the repeat.

Just once I’d love to respond “I dunno, leave me alone with that damn meal already.” (OK, I have actually said that….)

It’s not that I don’t like cooking. It’s not that terrible to create something delicious from nothing special. I don’t even mind the clean up so much. It’s really just the guilt of it all. The inability to ever touch on everyone’s eating needs, to reach society’s judge-y healthy needs and actually like what I make at the end of it all. I love cooking a nutritious well-balanced meal, sitting down to strange looks and having my kids say the four words I hate the most: “Is there anything else?”

I make beef burgers. Yes, real ground beef. I know I am basically choking my children’s heart to death with fresh bathed cholesterol. Choose turkey, my health-conscious friends tell me. Yes, well, healthy eaters – have you served a turkey burger to a meat eater and seen what happens? Yah, I think not. Don’t even get me started on chicken or tofurky hot dogs. Those are not real hot dogs, they are rubber hot dog imposters.

I recently read an article telling me to not make too much tuna or salmon because apparently the mercury in fish fries the brain. I always thought fish was brain food? I cannot even get that one right. Plus, two of my four kids don’t even eat fish and a third one can’t stand the smell.

There is always pasta, you say? 1,001 ways according to the book gathering dust on my shelf. Well, it’s super high in carbohydrates, so says the nutritional facts, making our ever- growing waistlines larger. I am basically pumping obesity injections and creating carb-addicts noodle by noodle.

At least there is delicious and safe go-to dairy. Grilled cheese sandwiches, yogurt smoothies and pizza – ever the crowd pleasers in my home. Dairy is a healthy, nutritious choice and great for strong bones and teeth. Well, in a world where we have become lactose intolerant (myself included) I have to cut down on that natural dairy and replace with yummy things like hemp or rice milk or Dasoya cheese. Mmmm. Try serving a little mac and cheese with hemp milk or fake-cheese that literally tastes like paper. Let me know what your kids think.

So, this leaves poultry. Chicken and I are left with a love/hate relationship. I cook it at least once a week. It’s healthy, low fat, versatile and all that good stuff. But, one look at too many bone-in chickens and I start to hear it cluck. My daughter feels the same. Back to vegetarianism we go.

Which brings me to tofu. I personally love the stuff. It’s delicious ability to morph into shapes and flavors intrigues me. Stir fry, tofu soups, tempeh steaks. I could eat it all day. My husband and kids, however, think it has the texture of a marshmallow and the taste of a bar of soap.

So, I am creative and careful to balance our week with pasta, chicken, tofu and fish with a few beef meals thrown in for good measure. Everyone has their own style and functionality and I try hard not to let the guilt get the best of me. I often visit ‘What’s For Dinner?’ sites and even started one on Facebook. It is exhausting to try and meet everyone’s likes and dislikes as well as hit all the marks on health.

So, I am trying the tried and true tactic of just ‘eat what’s put in front of you or you don’t eat’. It worked for my mom, let’s hope it works for me. And for you health-conscious naysayers out there, I’m making burgers tonight. Deal with it.

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