Top Ten Tuesday: The Chef Killers

I used to love cooking. I really did. Before kids, I was a Martha Stewart wannabe. This was before the Food Network, when us budding foodies had to rely on paper-bound cookbooks, magazines and Julia Child on PBS for inspiration.

My inner Martha still pops her head out now and then, but I doubt she’ll be fully resurrected until my kids have left home. Because as most mothers realize, the dietary needs and whims of children can totally suck the life out of culinary creativity. And when there are multiple children in a household, who all like different things, well…it’s just about enough to drive me to drink.

(Hey, my culinary skills might get rusty, but I could end up a really talented bartender by the time my three monsters are grown!)

I knew I needed to write about this when I went ballistic earlier today over being told to make homemade whipped cream for Thanksgiving. This request did not come from one of my children, or my spouse, but by someone who could make it for themselves if they really wanted to contribute that to the family’s Thanksgiving dinner. So I didn’t exactly respond in glee when asked to take on another cooking task because I’m already patching together the time to cook a dozen different things leading up to the holiday. Especially not something like hand-whipping cream, when the stuff in the can is perfectly delicious and best of all, requires NO work aside from a little pressure from my index finger.

Or better yet, someone else’s index finger.

But, because of my previous channeling of Martha Stewart in all her glory, most of my extended family still believes that I get immense joy out of things such as beating my own whipped cream by hand.  I fear that some truly believe I’d rather stay up til 3:00 a.m. stretching phyllo dough, and fattening geese to make my own foie gras, instead of something as banal as, say, sleeping.

News bulletin to family: I don’t enjoy cooking that much anymore, and I haven’t for  a lonnnnnnnnnng time. I just cook all the family holiday meals because no one else can or will. And if I seem happy about it, it is for two reasons:

1. A part of me does enjoy entertaining (particularly for gracious guests who appreciate what they’re given) and I know that God commands us in His word to be hospitable.

2. I want my kids to have happy memories of family gatherings, and good food served at the holidays, just like I grew up with. And if it’s going to be, it’s up to me.

But these days, convenience is the name of the game. Sure, I have favorite foods that are time-intensive but are worth the effort because they’ve become traditions in our family. Like cornbread dressing, my macaroni and cheese, homemade cranberry sauce, my particular pumpkin pies and the cherry congealed salad I grew up eating. Things that will not be anywhere near as delicious in a store-bought version. But whipped cream? That’s like saying I should hand-shred all the cheddar for the mac-n-cheese, or churn my own butter. It just isn’t necessary. So, yeah…the whipped cream can come out of a can. Or I might just plunk a tub of Cool Whip down on the buffet. It’s all good.

Anyway…since this is supposed to be a Top Ten List of ways that parenthood has slaughtered my inner chef, and not a rant against Thanksgiving, let me begin:

10. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It’s probably more responsible for the dulling down of American kids’ collective taste buds than any other food product. I cannot imagine ever buying the stuff again after my littles are grown.

9. Ramen noodles. I swear, after my firstborn tasted these for the first time, he’d have been happy to eat nothing else for the rest of his life. And at 12, I’d wager he still feels this way. He should really enjoy college.

8. Chicken nuggets.

7. Crying over anything green. Except neon green-apple flavored things that aren’t real food.

6. Gagging when made to eat a bite of fresh tomato, cucumber or lettuce.

5. Little piles of uneaten diced tomatoes or other veggies, carefully picked out of chili or soup.

4. Eli’s frequent exclamations upon walking into the kitchen while I’m cooking: “WHAT is that HORRIBLE smell???”

3. “But I don’t LIIIIIIIIIIIIIKE _______” (fill in the blank).

2. Their ability to read food labels now and know when I’m trying to slip something past them.

1. My fear that they will starve to death if I don’t cater to them at least a little bit.

We’ve done baby-led weaning with Jonah and so far he is a much better eater than his brothers. And I’ve mostly quit being  a short-order cook with the older two. So I am slowly slaughtering my fear of their imminent starvation.

But don’t expect Martha back in my kitchen anytime soon, OK?

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