For Your Next Family Dinner, Try Whatever Evening

The idea of ​​a family dinner is great. Anyone who stops in the middle of a busy day to gather around a delicious meal, mingle and share. The reality of a family dinner is more like one kid nagging that there is too much sauce on the pasta, while another child complains that the pasta is not in the right shape. It might seem like there are two options: Prepare one meal for everyone – whether you like it or not! – and grit your teeth through moans. Or become a fast food chef preparing a variety of mini dinners to please everyone.

But once children reach a certain age or skill level, a third option mercifully appears – “Whatever night.” “Whatever night” is exactly what it sounds like: “What’s for dinner tonight?” “Whatever.” (This is what my parents called the “Every Man for Himself” dinner.)

Katie Bingham-Smith writes for Scary Mommy that she realized Wither Night when it finally became clear that no matter how she cooked, her three teens would turn into instant critics who criticized everything from the smoothness of the cheese to the chewy harshness. steak. Now, she decided, they were old enough to cook their own damn food. Bingham-Smith writes :

I go to the store and buy a bunch of things, from a few frozen meals to meat, fresh fruits and vegetables. I try to make sure we always have staples like bread, rice, pasta and peanut butter. They can then eat (and cook) whatever they want at lunchtime.

She offers options, and they themselves choose what to do. Maybe from time to time a couple of kids join forces to do what they both need; or maybe they’re tired and don’t want to take care of themselves tonight, so Mom’s tacos actually sound good. But she decided to rule out the argument entirely.

One thing she doesn’t compromise on, however, is actually sitting at the dinner table with the whole family. She sets the time for dinner and everyone gets together for something to eat.

I like it much better when I know my kids won’t tell you that the garlic bread is too hard or too soft, or that the pasta is not cooked right. I like not watching them load their plate with fried chicken and rice, add half a bottle of ranch dressing, only to state that they really don’t like chicken anymore after a few bites, and they regret not. placed so much Hidden Valley all over their bird.

I’ve done something like this for years without thinking about it. While the variety of foods I cook to eat (and enjoy) has expanded over the years, I can’t stomach the constant change of spaghetti, turkey tenderloins, meatballs, turkey burgers, and shrimp. So, a couple of times a week, when I want to do something too hot for his taste, or something that I know he has tried many times, but absolutely dislikes, I tell him that he can eat “what whatever you like. “

Until now, that usually put me in the category of instant chefs in those days. But now he usually makes his own lunch, and Bingham-Smith made me realize that he is old enough and capable enough to make himself a hot dog or peanut butter on his bagel for dinner.

We won’t have Whatever Night every night like her family, but letting him practice making his own main dinner once or twice a week would be a good transition into the next few years until he can make his own spaghetti and fry his own. own shrimp.

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