October 25, 2010

How we tabled the issue of cooking...

With experience, openness to constructive criticism, and practice, practice, practice, my Chicken Marsala recipe has evolved into a dish that brings me great pleasure, as it seems to for family and friends too.  I love to make that meal almost as much as I love to sink my teeth into it.  Listening to the sizzle of the sautéed chicken, covered in golden brown breading with fresh herbs peeking out here and there, smelling the luscious aroma of the creamy marsala wine sauce slowly bubbling, loaded with baby bella mushrooms and golden brown garlic cloves, and enjoying the smiles and wide eyes on the faces of our dinner guests, followed by questions asking me just how I made that… oh, the joy of creating and sharing this wonderful dish.
But I hate cooking.  Now before you point out any hypocrisy, hear me out, and see if this describes any of you.  I enjoy making certain meals, but on my terms – when I want, how much I want, for whom I want, and so on.  What I don’t enjoy is the job of cooking: the heavy burden and responsibility of thinking up three nutritious and delicious meals a day for six people, every day of the week, month, year, decade…  it’s overwhelming!!!  So as with most things in our home, we have developed a system over time that accomplishes the task efficiently in a way that works for all of us; one that keeps my mental health intact while still nourishing our bodies.
Pride can get in the way, and it did for me for a long time.  With a desire to be all things to all my little people, I was stretching myself beyond my ability, and at the same time missing a great opportunity to allow my kids to become more and more independent.  After all, isn’t that among the eventual goals of raising them?  So with some shame, which I soon got over, we addressed the problem in a way that works for us.
The quickest way to solve the issue of my responsibility for three meals a day was to reduce it to one.  Breakfast and lunch are no longer on my to-do list.  My husband heads out the door before either occurs, so by his lack of participation, he has reduced my workload.  I make my own breakfast and lunch, and eat them when it is convenient for me around our school routine.  And yes, friends, our four kids make their own breakfast and lunch every day, and clean up after themselves too, from the teenager on down to the pretty little six-year-old.  That sweet chef-in-training can even operate the toaster safely and effectively.  We believe in teaching our children the important skills necessary to basic survival in this world, such as how to make a tasty peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
To be clear, I am not entirely removed from the process, but my role in both of those meals is merely that of a supervisor.  At the beginning of this adjustment to our routine, it was my job to teach them how to prepare various foods, which required patience on my part and hard work on theirs.  I just kept my eye on the prize.  Now that they’ve learned these skills, it is my job to ensure we have the necessary supplies to give them healthy and tasty choices.  (Grocery shopping will be a topic for another day.)  It’s also my job to ensure they choose them.  Some of their creations are unique, just as the kids themselves, but I enjoy that.  Our daughter, for instance, likes to make what she simply calls “unusual tacos” which consists of a soft tortilla spread or layered with whatever tasty topping she comes up with that day, Mexican or not.  And the boys come up with their own sandwich ideas and so on, preparing things exactly as they please.   The bonus:  no one leaves food on their plate, because they chose each and every bit, and they know how much they can eat.

Audra breads chicken like a professional
With this, dinner is my only meal to make, often with the help of my lovely assistant pictured above.  It has become less of a burden with the relief of the other two meals being taken off my plate, so to speak.  Most weeknights I’ll make one round of dinner for the kids, and eat with my husband later in the evening after the younger ones are in bed, sometimes having what’s left of what I made for the kids, or sometimes making a little something their youthful palettes can’t bear.  I also happen to enjoy hot food, so that’s more likely to occur if I’m not serving the kids theirs at the time.
Now I realize some may object to that aspect of how we handle things, saying that eating a meal together is the best way for families to share quality time.  I respectfully disagree.  Spending time together is the best way for families to share quality time.  I spend every day, all day with the kids, and that is our quality time.  Their dad comes home from work after their dinner time, and then we have our nightly Bible study and bedtime routine (see the post on that if you like) which is our whole family’s opportunity to share quality time.  This is what works for us.  Other families may have school , jobs, and extra-curricular activities keeping them apart, in which case the family dinner is a great solution.  But I’m sure you’d all agree that one size doesn’t fit all, and so we do what works for us.  And on the weekends we are all together for meals, so we have that opportunity to reinforce good table manners by example and enjoy each other's company over a good meal.  They still make their own breakfast and lunch on the weekends - I'm only one woman!
Cooking is no longer overwhelming to me, thanks to the cooperation of my family.  Being the mom doesn’t have to mean being the head chef and hash-slinger, not even for a stay-at-home mom.  To pretend to be able to do it all on my own is just silly.  With a willingness to admit defeat, and the loving help of my family, we found a way to lighten the load.  A side dish of freedom goes nicely with Chicken Marsala, don’t you think?


  1. Mmmmm. Chicken Marsala. Mmmmm. Laura makes a mean Swiss Chicken, too, let me tell you. ... And more recently, Laura has discovered some way of making a red spaghetti sauce that's just like a'Mama used to make - (maybe even just kind of slightly better). I could eat it every day. Mmmmm....sauce.

  2. Thank you, my completely unbiased husband. That's high praise indeed to be compared to your mama!

  3. I have had this famed chicken marsala at the Wilbur home - delicious!!!