Why do American families feel the need to make every meal SPECIAL?
I know, I know, one could argue that there is nothing “special” about the fare that, I assume, most families are eating, speaking from a gourmet-sense: meals from bags, frozen pizzas, canned soups, homestyle recipes. However, judging from the fact that the emergence of meal-planning sites seems to be on the rise, judging by commercials on television (like the Healthy Choice ads) touting “elevated” ingredients and describing potstickers as a “culinary enigma,” and based upon the popularity of the Food Network and other food shows (notice I didn’t say “cooking”), one can see that our media culture has created quite an expectation that our homemade dinner entrees be ripe with “flavor,” “harmonious” in ingredients, and reach to the tall heights of heaven and make us proclaim, “PERFECTION!”
It’s no wonder that preparing dinner can seem so daunting.
Here’s the deal, people. Dinner ain’t no fancy dinner party every night. For centuries, cultures have survived on preparing food local to their region, with simple ingredients and nutritional value.
So, a reality check:
1) Everyone should know how to cook. There are some basic needs in this life and one of them is eating. Jesus wasn’t just making an awesome metaphor when he spoke about teaching a man to fish; teach a man to fish AND cook that sucker over a fire and you’ve got a self-reliant human right there.
Look online for local cooking courses (many restaurants offer cooking lessons) or at your local community college for culinary classes. In this age of technology, I’m sure one could learn basic cooking techniques by searching YouTube for helpful videos.
2) As I state in my Something From Nothing meal descriptions: Veggie+Grain+Protein=Meal. That’s it. Peas+Quinoa+Tofu–Meal. Roasted Vegetables+Bread+Cheese–Meal. Spinach+Rice+Eggs–Meal. (That last one is my ace in the hole when I’m low on ingredients.)
3) Combining #1 & #2, once you’re cooking and compiling meals, FORGET THE FANCY. Each meal DOES NOT have to be a unique personal statement of your culinary repertoire. Did you eat the same meal twice this month? This week? (Heck, this DAY?!) HORROR! SHAME! DISGRACE! …….. Not really. You fed yourself and your family. Mission Accomplished.
4) Exotic ingredients and global recipes are fun, for sure, but cook what you know. I’ve got a handful of simple meals I can whip up from basic ingredients and my belly will be just as satiated with rice and beans as it would from a complicated recipe.
5) Keep the HOLY in holiday. Holidays aren’t just significant markers in religious life; they help us define our seasons, shape our culture, and allow us to cherish traditions. I’ve talked about this concept before. Allow indulgence to shine a few times a year. Keep daily eating (and living) relatively simple and the meaningfulness of holiday seasons is kept sacred.
F*CK THE FANCY.