What's for dinner?

Guest post by Karen Pearson

If I have the answer to that question in the morning, I feel like the day is off to a great start. Realistically, I’m usually figuring out dinner plans on my way home from work.

The ironic thing is, I grew up in a household with a very organized mom. SUPER organized. She was a pioneer in meal planning. Tucked inside the kitchen cupboard door, I’d find the monthly calendar with each day’s dinner menu neatly written in the little squares AND a separate weekly calendar with all the breakfasts listed. As a kid, I thought all my friends knew what they were going to have for dinner in 3 weeks, and what kind of jam they were going to have on their toast on Thursday. HA! I’ve lovingly teased my mom about these menus for years and of course I never fully recognized how clever she was until I had a family of my own. Funny how that happens!

Growing up, we didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen and we ate whatever was put on the dinner table.  I don’t think it ever occurred to us that there was any other way. I distinctly remember sneakily depositing chewed up liver into my white paper napkin and throwing it out but that was the extent of me asserting my independence when it came to meals. As a teenager, when I mentioned to my mom that our neighbours with six kids would often have six different meals, she’d laugh. Clearly, this was never going to fly at our house.

When my youngest daughter was 10, she made the decision to become a vegetarian. This seemed to happen around the time my eldest daughter did a speech on factory farming, but my youngest daughter cites this as a mere coincidence. I did some research and told her that if this is what she wanted, we’d have to find ways to make sure her diet was complete and healthy (she probably has the healthiest eating habits in our house).

A few years later, after watching a number of documentaries and to support my daughter’s choice, I also became a vegetarian. My son, who adores animals, was the next to adopt the meat-free lifestyle and has been a vegetarian for over a year now. At first it was tricky for him because yes, he loves animals, but he also loves hamburgers. My husband and eldest daughter remain tried-and-true carnivores. Recently, my youngest daughter and son have decided to eat fish and seafood so now I guess they’re technically pescetarians. This past year, I’ve decided to become more “plant based” and ditch dairy products almost entirely.

I never intended the “what’s for dinner?” question to become even more complicated with everyone’s different eating styles, but honestly, it was a bit challenging at first. My husband, who makes dinner probably half of the time (okay, maybe a bit more), sometimes seemed at a loss as to what to make. Eating the way you did when you grew up is comforting and easy and has an emotional element to it. Meat, potatoes, vegetables…dinnertime! So in this new era, we’re creative and flexible.  Rather than make separate meals for everyone, we embrace side dishes. We have pasta with cheese on the side as a topping and a gigantic Greek salad with feta and onions on the side (respect for the onion haters!). We basically have a salad bar each night and build-your-own dinners without making 4-5 separate meals. The most we double up on is on Taco Night, when we’ll fry up some ground beef AND Mexican-flavoured soy crumbles (we just call it fake meat).

My goal is to make sure there’s always at least one thing on the table that each of us likes and to try and get everyone involved in the menu planning and the cooking. I’ve suggested that each family member have one night a week to plan, grocery shop and cook dinner, but so far, no takers. I think that might be the secret to it all though, so I’m not giving up yet!

Do you have a household with different eating styles too? How do you manage meals at your place?

 

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