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Cooking Dinner is Like Being a Contestant on 'American Idol'

It's hard to please all of the people all of the time when it comes to dinner.

I’ve been experiencing some chronic pain. It seems to be located primarily in my arm, and sometimes in my shoulder. I told the doctor that it happens whenever I pat myself on the back. She told me to stop doing that.

I deserve a pat on the back! I cook dinner two, sometimes three times per week.

Three cheers and a double pat for me. This cooking-dinner thing is hard.

Actually, it’s not the cooking that’s so hard. It’s coming up with ideas for what to cook that I find challenging.

I don’t know how my mom did it. She cooked dinner nearly every night for my dad, sister and me for more years than I can even remember. Every day when I came home from school, dinner would be in some stage of preparation. At 5 o’clock sharp, we would all take our places around the kitchen table and eat dinner as a family.

It sounds almost Norman Rockwell-like until you add in the chorus of gripes and moans -- mostly from me -- about what was on the menu. My mom must have felt like a contestant on "American Idol" every day. A panel of critical judges with varying degrees of expertise evaluated her best efforts. Sometimes there was praise and applause, and sometimes there were boos and complaints.

Still, my mom persevered.

And so do I.

One of us doesn’t like red meat. One of us doesn’t like vegetables. One of us won’t eat shellfish. One of us won’t go near marinara sauce. So it goes. Figuring out what to cook for dinner each week has become the bane of my existence.

I have an extensive collection of cookbooks, but I rarely use them. Mostly I just like knowing that they are there. They’re part of my make-believe reality where I throw marvelous dinner parties with exotic dishes and fancy hors d’oeuvres for all my friends and family. In this fantasy world, I am the hostess with the mostest who delights the masses with my exquisite culinary skills and produces meals that look just like the pictures in my cookbooks.

I also have apps on my cell phone that offer hundreds of recipes at my fingertips. For the most part, I don’t use those either. The recipes require too many ingredients that I don’t have on hand, and they lack the pictures that make a dish so appealing.

Mostly, I just fall back on the same old tried-and-true recipes and wait until one of us gets sick of them. Every now and then, I’ll throw something new into the rotation and see if it sticks. If a new recipe is a major hit, it makes it into my special “favorite recipes” binder. It’s my culinary holy grail, and only the best of the best may reside in that book.

Unfortunately, there are still quite a few pages to be filled in my binder.

I don’t think I could ever do what my mom did for all those years. She must be some kind of Wonder Woman with superhuman powers, able to cook nightly dinners with a wave of her wooden spoon. It’s too bad I didn’t inherit that gene, because my culinary creativity and cooking prowess is definitely limited.

To all the American Culinary Idols out there who cook dinner regularly, I salute you. You deserve an award, or at the very least, a pat on the back. Just be careful not to injure yourself while doing it.

No name April 09, 2011 at 10:48 PM
favorite? easiest = taco bake. make ground beef & season with taco seasoning. make deluxe Mac & cheese. (orig. receipe calls for sour cream but I don't use). layer Mac/beef till all in baking dish. bake at 350 for 15-20 min. top with salsa & shredded cheese, bake till melted. again, great article I can so identify with. are you sure your not spying on me & my thoughts??
Leslie Uriss Spehar April 10, 2011 at 11:47 PM
Sounds delish! Thanks for sharing! I'm definitely not spying. I prefer to think of it as a case of great minds thinking alike. ;-)
No name April 11, 2011 at 01:04 PM
Great minds indeed!!! We should pull together a REAL woman's cookbook!!! One that will actually get used :-)

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