By Kyrie Robinson
Eating Warm Black Bean Dip and guacamole and chips for dinner is also a wonderful, two-single-girls-hanging-out kind of dinner. A kind of “what the heck – I can eat this if I want” kind of dinner. Like when you just come home late, immediately turn on the TV to watch “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and eat cheese and crackers.
Does this kind of a meal have a place for a family? Or does this fly in the face of the aspired-to dinnertime culture that brings families together and gathers us around the dinner table?
I have twin boys – they are 10. As the mom, it’s my job to set the rules. Set the standards we will aspire to. Set the values that matter. Food is an inevitable part of this, from the very first food decision of breastfeeding and it just keeps going from there. No one else is going to feed your kid. That’s pretty much at the top of the list of “Parent Jobs.”
1. Feed the kid.
Whether you feed them restaurant food, fast food, packaged food, homemade food, or hire a chef, you are making choices. If you are lucky, you have choices and can make them to reflect your values. Do we eat meat? Do we eat kosher? Do we eat organic? Do we eat in or eat out? Will we shop at the local farmer’s market? How often? Should I avoid milk with growth hormones, gluten, sugar? Will we eat together, at the table? Is eating pizza together on the couch and watching a movie OK? Is it okay if the pizza is homemade? What if the pizza is homemade, but I bought the crust?
Too many choices! Sometimes I need to cut corners, if only to have time for other parenting like homework, or the school play. In the never-ending cultural quest for personal health and social responsibility, I can get caught up on the dinner menu: “Where’s the protein? We need a vegetable! We need a starch.” But if you try to do that every night, you go nuts. Or at least, I do.
Yet to turn from “homemade, sit down dinner” to fast food, frozen food, microwave food – well it feels like defeat to me to do that more than once a month. It’s not the values I want to pass on. So I try to find meals that are still real food, still somehow created in my kitchen, but dead simple for the nights when you are sick, or tired, or you only have an hour between play rehearsal and cub scouts to make dinner, eat, and clean up.
One night we had bread and milk and blackberries for dinner. (Hint: Beatrix Potter). My son Andy is often happy with cutting up an apple and eating a bowl of Trader Joe’s High Fiber Low Fat Whole Grain Organic O’s. I can live with that. A dinner of leftover Warm Black Bean Dip with chips and salsa is also fine with me.