Monday, November 12, 2007

monday night = soup, stew or chile night

one two three, chili!

This is something of a vestige from Organized Times past. I'd like to pretend that I'm always so on top of things that meals are planned out weeks in advance. The truth is, though, that I've had enough big changes to lose my momentum several times over the last few years and it always takes a lot to get it up and running again. Let's just say that right now. . . we're more at a lethargic trudge. I've got a ways to go before anything of mine is "running". Many nights, dinner time arrives and I'm stumped. What to make? It's easier for me to indulge in a lengthy fantasy of inventing the perfect human kibble, full of omega-3s and balanced protein, than to actually whip up something healthy and delicious. And dinner time is further delayed and I feel crankier still. So on nights when I've bothered to give dinner the forethought it deserves, it's so nice having the decision made long before the hungry child hour of meltdown. This is easier accomplished on Mondays, when I stick, instead of a specific menu plan, to a broad category. Soup, stew or chili. Tonight it was chili. My famous (among quarter dozen) 3-bean quinoa chili. Add cornbread and everybody's happy. Category cooking gives me the esoteric prompt I need to narrow down dinner options without completely axing any adlib creativity. I feel most capable in the kitchen when recipes are used as suggestive guidelines or jumping off points instead of any sort of specific directions. But I don't always have the energy to look at random ingredients and see Dinner. It's a good middle ground for me. We do have other weekly stand-bys that are less about meal planning and more about ritual; I require certain anchors in my day, my week, to keep me forging ahead (at a trudge or a run, depending) and connected (to this whole great world). As an added bonus something that makes memories for my children and helps them mark the passing of time (sunday homemade pizza night, for example, so, however shallow this is, I know that they can say someday, "we always made pizza on sunday nights" ) conveniently gets dinner on the table without me having to think about it. I don't purport that every meal is a ritual worthy of a special memory, just that it helps me when I give something so mundane as eating ("What? You're hungry again," I say to my children, "Didn't I just feed you yesterday?!") the opportunity to be something good for all of us. And it's rarely good when I'm stressed out and cranky. And having a category to work under keeps me from feeling too overwhelmed. It's a simple thing I've gotten out of the habit of doing. Save for all those endless days of triple digit temperatures in Arizona (when my motivation to do anything but chew ice pretty much dripped away out of my pores), I've stuck to the Monday soup thing. It is cheating, a little, because I like soup so much I could make it every meal. Not a lot of things give me that competent homemaker thrill like having a big pot of something good simmering on the stove all evening and then spooning it into bowls for my family. But I'm easy and could eat the same thing over and over for a very long time before tiring of it (this would be a good time to stick in my current sauteed kale obsession), but I'm not so sure having Soup, Stew or Chili November would be such a successful family plan.


Lisa said...

I did notice a bunch of kale in the basket when I ran into Brian and the kids last week.

I'm not a huge soup fan. I like it well enough and cook it regularly, but I certainly couldn't eat it all the time. The method that I use can be found in more detail on the urban homesteading blog, but it goes like this. I plan five meals per week and shope for those meals, then cook them as the mood hits me thoughout the week. Tuesday and Thursdays I don't cook unless there is a very compelling reason to do so.

deb said...

I would love to have that quinoa 3-bean recipe when you have a chance. Ever since you mentioned that Mondays are your soup day, I think of you on Friday, our soup day, while I'm slicing and dicing.