I'm in a major food rut over here. I've been cooking daily meals now for nearly 16 years, since getting married. I've tried countless new recipes and learned how to get a meal on the table most nights of the week, homemade and hot.
But man am I in a food rut these days. For the month of February, I tried only two recipes.
Both recipes are solid and excellent.
My kids loved the Bacon Wrapped Tenderloin, but neither child would eat the Italian Style Meatloaf.
My husband ate and loved both. While he never criticizes my cooking (since he refuses to even make toast), he'll let me know if something isn't a 'keeper.' He deemed both of these recipes keepers.
But here's the thing - it's downright depressing to go searching for recipes, go shopping for food and then spend hours preparing that food to have your kids refuse to eat it. Now, my kids weren't rude. They didn't complain or shout obscenities at me, but they just didn't eat. They pushed their meatloaf around the plate and finally asked to be excused.
When I was a kid (famous last words, right), we'd have stayed at the table until we ate our food. On more than one occasion, our food was wrapped up for us and put in the fridge and set down on the breakfast able if we refused to eat it that night.
I've tried that with my kids. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn't. But the whole process is so exhausting and depressing and awful that I just gave up forcing food a while ago. I also vacillate between letting my kids eat later and saying, "Nope. Kitchen closes after dinner."
As you may have guessed, I'm not Gold Medaling in parenting.
This is all to say: cooking for four people's refined palates is exhausting.
I'm kind of over it.
I have tried for years to provide healthy, homemade meals with the right balance of protein, carbs and vegetables. I have spent countless hours shopping, making lists, searching for recipes and then preparing that food. I have agonized over organic vs. nonorganic, gluten-free vs. gluten-filled, local vs. shipped, etc.
And I do mean agonized. I stand in the middle of the grocery aisle and debate tortilla chips, organic milk, which eggs are not just organic but free range....and anyway...what does that mean? Does that mean they're roaming some kind of wildlife preserve in Arkansas? Or does it mean they're privy to a sliver of sunlight in the slats of whatever galvanized shed they're stuck in?
A few days ago, while feeling rancid while taking antibiotics, I didn't have the energy to think about cooking, recipes, table linens, wine or anything else.
I bought two boxes of Hamburger Helper and 3 pounds of ground beef.
I bought boxed macaroni & cheese.
I bought those individual bags of chips for lunches.
I almost bought store-bought orange juice but didn't have the energy to hit up the cooler section of the grocery store.
My kids came home and looked in the pantry for a snack. My daughter paused. She looked at my husband, then at me.
"Who went shopping?" she asked. She looked afraid, that like scene in the Julia Robert's movie, Sleeping with the Enemy, where she realizes her husband has arranged all the canned food.
I'm sure they'll love the Hamburger Helper. My kids tend to love any kind of boxed food.
I'll enjoy the break from actioning all of these laborious meals.
Maybe next month I'll get my cooking mojo back and have a slew of recipes that were total wins in our house. Maybe not.
For now, I'm going to rest easy knowing we're not suffering anything at all in our lives other than a little picky eating, which is probably a sign that all is well after all.
Try the recipes above if you get a chance. And fingers crossed your kiddos gobble that meatloaf up. It really was pretty darn good.
Also, I'm not sure how I feel about this The New Yorker article. As many of you know, I have a love/hate relationship with The New Yorker, and this article kind of sums that up. Tongue in cheek? Or kind of snotty?
Next month, when I have my wits about me, I'll be writing about how to get your kids to eat just about anything, which I'll learn from my sister. Her kids eat all sorts of stuff, without complaint, because she's managed to figure that out.
I'll report back.