I am consumed by food. Meal planning takes place for the week every Saturday. I set aside some portion of my day to sit with cookbooks and various loose pages of recipes I've collected throughout the week from friends or magazines or online. I scour the lists of ingredients in order to rule out gluten, exotic, out-of-season produce and ridiculous one-time-use spices or potions that will remain in my pantry for three years after I make this one recipe with them.
I set aside recipes that have made the cut, mentally deciding which nights I will have the most time to cook and those that will necessitate a hasty re-heating. We can't simply order a pizza anymore or have soup-and-sandwich night, so the nights we're running from school to activities are rough. Those recipes will be made on Sunday and stuck in the fridge so I can just zap them in the microwave (God forbid anyone ever discover that microwaved food causes cancer or autism or Parkinson's disease!!!)
The grocery list gets made, taking into account the nights Bubba will be away during the coming week. Nights when he's gone I can get away with gluten-free pasta and steamed broccoli for dinner. Next on the grocery list are things for school lunches. How many days of school this week? Any of them I can get away with whisking the girls out for a quick salad-bar treat at Whole Foods?
It's my ritual. I am sick of it. I wish I didn't spend so much time thinking about, shopping for, preparing and cleaning up after food. I think.
This week as I prepare to shut out the world and focus on the week's menu I am realizing it's an easy week. Tonight we're going to some friends' house for dinner (yay, they're gluten-free too - what a boon!), tomorrow I'll cook. Monday night Bubba's gone so we can have pasta. Tuesday night Bubba's gone and Eve's at choir practice until 6:15, so we can stop at Whole Foods for salad bar on the way home. Wednesday night I'm going to a book reading, so dinner is Bubba's to handle, and Thursday we're all heading out of town for the weekend.
Why am I not jumping for joy...
My ritual has been altered. The methodical, tangible putting of pen to paper for the grocery list, the writing of the meal plans in my weekly calendar - those are things I think I actually look forward to. There is something about this ritual that makes me feel as though I am doing something Real. Something productive and pro-active and motherly. Nurturing. Taking care of my family. And I'm good at it. I'm a good cook. I'm a good meal planner. I relish the opportunity to craft a meal that will make my family sated and happy. It validates my ability to provide for my children and my husband. I love our family dinners. I feel secretly smug that I'm not stuffing my children full of convenience foods or having Cheerios for dinner.
Guess I'll have to go do a load of laundry. Not quite as satisfying, but at least I got some writing done today. Even if it wasn't my grocery list.