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I'm No Short-Order Cook

I picked up my son from school the other day, and he asked—as he usually does—what we were having for dinner. 

“We're having spaghetti,” I replied. 

He wasn’t happy with my answer and started to think of all the other things he might be able to have instead.
 
“What if I had a ham sandwich?” he offered.

“No honey, we are having spaghetti,” I said.

“What if I had some cheese and crackers?” he pleaded. 

“No, honey, we are having spaghetti,” I said. 

He rattled off several other possible dinner options, as if what I serve for dinner is up for negotiation. When I didn’t answer him, he started to cry. “But I don't like spaghetti!” he wailed. 

His tears and scrunched up little face were almost enough to break me. I stopped at a red light and glanced in the rear-view mirror. He looked so pathetic that I thought, for a brief moment, maybe, just maybe, he might be able to have a ham sandwich instead of spaghetti.

The crying and sobbing in the backseat elevated my blood pressure to unnecessary heights, and I almost succumbed to his pitiful pleading. Luckily, when the light turned green, I snapped out of my guilt-induced haze and stood tough. 

“We are having spaghetti,” I repeated.

I'm not, and never have been, a short-order cook in my house. Everyone eats what is served. Sometimes they like the meal (when we have cheeseburgers) and sometime they don't (when we have eggplant). I don’t make separate meals for my kids, because I never wanted to set a precedent—even once—that I would live to regret. 

So, night after night, I brace myself at dinner to fend off the usual warnings of, “But I don't like (insert any food type here).

I try to vary our meals to include vegetarian dishes, fish dishes, and, of course, meat. My family likes meat. On vegetarian nights, I usually hear, “Where's the meat?” On chicken nights, I usually hear, “But we always have chicken!” And whenever I try something new, I usually hear, “This is gross.” 

If I worried about what each person likes or dislikes, I would never cook another meal. I couldn't. The list of gross, yuck, I-don't-like and eeewwww goes on and on. Luckily my husband eats everything on his plate even if he doesn't like it. 

Many times he will say, “Mmmm, I like the way you baked the kale chips and added the garlic seasoning,” even though his face says otherwise. I appreciate his show of solidarity. But I honestly don't know how anyone could not like baked kale chips. C'mon people, this is good stuff!

My job is to provide healthy, well-rounded meals for my family. I will create good eaters if it kills me. No one knows what kale tastes like until he tries it, so we will continue to try new things and fall back on our usual favorites in our ever-changing meal routine. It's not easy planning seven nights of meals week after week and trying to come up with different breakfast and lunch options too.

When my kids start complaining, I rattle off my list of to-dos when it comes to meal planning (scour cookbooks and food magazines, bookmark recipes, create menu, cut coupons, shop for food, compare prices, bring food home, put food away, take food out, prep food, cook food, clean up food, and do it all over again the next day) and let them know they are welcome to take over the tasks any time. I'm usually met with blank stares because they can't grasp what actually goes into getting food on the table.

We do have plenty of nights where my kids gobble up their food and thank me profusely for their meal. I love those nights.  I make a mental note of those nights so in the future when they have to eat that darned stuffed acorn squash, I remind them that tomorrow we are having turkey meatballs.

On the other nights while I'm cooking the dinner they don't like, I turn on my iPod, tune out the whining, and pour myself a glass of wine. 

My wine beats their whine every time.

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