It’s been seven years since I said I do to my husband and the role as family cook. Just over a year later we added our first son to the mix and the chairs around the table have multiplied to five ever since.
I cook for my family for a lot of reasons, the two most prominent being that I simply love to do it and I feel a great responsibility to nourish them.
But it’s not all sugar cookies and fluffy marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole. Like any job that we do, it has its ups and its down, its challenges and triumphs, and its absolute utter failures.
I know that as the years roll by I will continue to learn and grow as a wife, mother and human being because of this role I have taken on. But in these past seven years I have learned a few lessons…
1. There is no such thing as too many fried potatoes. No matter how many you make and how many times you add an extra potato to the pan, those hungry monsters will always ask “Are there any more fried potatoes?”
2. You must stand up to dinner table resistance. I learned early on with our oldest son that there will be foods they don’t like and unless you stand up and at least make them eat a couple of bites right then and there, you are going to be dealing with picky eaters. Our policy is if they choose not to eat it then we set it aside and the next time they claim hunger we offer it up with a smile. That’s how my son once ended up eating the other half of liver and onions for breakfast before tucking into oatmeal.
3. You might be the only one who wants diversity at the table. My husband would eat the same few meals over and over again without complaint if I made them for him. But I happen to get bored easily or simply don’t follow recipes. So when things are going well we almost never eat the same thing twice in a week, or even a month. But when things get tough I know that I can fix the same simple meals over and over without complaint.
4. Getting your children to eat what you want them to is simply a matter of training. If you give them plain yogurt, they will only eat plain yogurt. If you give them yogurt sweetened with all sorts of sugars, then that is what they will want. Give them what you’d eat as a healthy option and they’ll learn to eat just like you.
5. The way to (part) of a man’s heart really is through his stomach. Yep, it’s true. A husband really does appreciate a home-cooked meal, an extra treat now and then, and the love that it takes to make homemade bread.
6. If you don’t feed them well, no one will. In a society that goes nuts over the abolition of Twinkies, you have to know that you have almost all of the impact on what your child eats. If you don’t take it seriously and realize that we have a responsibility to feed them well and educate them on why homemade is always better than store-bought, then you can bet no one else will.
7. Dishes are like death and taxes – they’re inevitable. Make peace with your time at the sink and if you value your sanity at all start your children on washing them when they’re young.
8. Be timely and don’t be afraid of snacks. Now that I’ve got little men running around our homestead I can watch them easily down a plate full of food as big as my own. And if I get off track and don’t get a meal to the table in time you can bet there will be a melt down. I’m no longer afraid to toss them a snack if I know dinner’s gonna be a little too far away.
9. Homemade anything is an expression of love. Trying to keep this in perspective in the chaos of every day life can be hard, but taking the time to knead bread, chop up a salad, render lard, or fry eggs you collected yourself really does show through. And it can be an expression of creativity to pull together a good meal with limited ingredients or budgets.
10. There is no such thing as too many fried potatoes. Did I mention that already?