Cooking supper for your family is serious business
Second only to laundry, the responsibility of putting supper on the table every night is a constant joy in a Jewish woman’s life. To inject some hischadshus in this repetitious exercise, here are some really cool supper-making hacks I’ve discovered over the years.
- Don’t call your supper menu a menu. Call it a rotation. “This recipe was so good, I added it to my dinner rotation.” It feels so Family-Tabley, it’s going to turn the task of cleaning chicken into the coolest activity.
- Once you’ve swapped the word menu for rotation, do not add recipes to your supper — make that dinner— rotation. You can change how you refer to things in your house and get away with it. You cannot change the tried-and-true meals you’ve been serving your family for years and get away with it.
- Start cooking late. As late in the day as possible. I know you think you’ll enjoy getting a head start and then knowing that supper is out of the way, but trust me, I can tell you from experience that it’s never out of the way. If you start early, you’ll basically be cooking supper all day. The cutlets have to be fried fresh, and you’re not reheating roasted potatoes if your kids actually like them roasted. What exactly are you “putting up” early?
- Leave over a little of whatever you made the day before for the kid who won’t touch what you’re making today. I guess some kids do prefer reheated roasted potatoes over anything you’re making today. I’m not saying names.
- Always keep a pack of frozen French fries in the freezer.
Now for the actual rotation. It’s a one-week rotation, unless you’re looking to complicate your life and run into serious bal tashchis sh’eilos.
The week starts on Monday because that’s the first business day of the week, and guess what? Cooking supper for your family is serious business. There are investments, and of course returns, although perhaps not desired ones.
Disclaimer: I shall not mention any vegetable sides since I understand this is a sensitive topic in many households. If you/your husband/your kids polish off their broccoli and officially snack on cauliflower, quietly count your blessings. Very quietly.
Okay, here goes:
Monday is schnitzel. Breaded, fried chicken cutlets, or else. Any kid — at least according to the perfectly logical brain of my seven-year-old son — who comes home from school on a Monday to anything but breaded, fried chicken cutlets is being deprived of a basic human right. You don’t want that on your conscience.
Defrost those chicken breasts. Take out your chicken shears and/or meat hammer. Set up the flour, eggs, and breadcrumb assembly line, and do what you do best. (Do not refer to any of the thousands of amazing schnitzel recipes you’ve clipped over the years. Do it the way your mother did it — it’s the only the way your kids will eat it.)
Monday is also the day to put up a huge pot of soup. This is the soup you’ll serve on Monday and on Tuesday (but not on Wednesday, you’ll soon see why), and the soup you’ll freeze for another Monday when you have well-visit appointments for half of the family. Great going. You’re the ultimate balabusta, off to a great start.
The knowledge that the soup is done should be your greatest comfort as you sidestep your kitchen and go do whatever it is you do on a random Tuesday.
After the soup, Tuesday is your only day for individuality. This is the day you make the exclusive-to-your-family foods. Between chicken wings/quarters/steaks/meatballs/burgers and the rice/potato/pasta conundrum, you know which “rotation” will garner the least protest, so go with that, even if you’ve gone with that every Tuesday since you’ve started your supper-making career. You’ll have no regrets.
Also, dessert is nice on a random Tuesday. I’ll have some.
Wednesday is milchig (Igrus HaBalabusta, 1:1).
Thursday is Shabbos food (ibid).
Friday may be the busiest day of the week, between cleaning, cooking, and getting everyone ready for Shabbos. Still, on Friday you wake up with that overwhelming sense of relief: no supper. Ahhh. Ba Shabbos ba menuchah.
There may be no “supper” on Shabbos, but there’s definitely Shalosh Seudos and Melaveh Malkah, and the same person who’s in charge of putting together supper every day of the week is in charge of those meals as well. Avocado on leftover challah from the seudah — have you ever been more in the mood for anything as tantalizing?
Sunday is the Day of Deception. For starters, it’s meant to be a day off, but in actuality, a mother is never more “on” than on that day off.
The main deception, though, is supper. You open your fridge in the morning and are greeted by myriad pans, containers, and foil-wrapped things. This leads you to believe that you definitely don’t need to cook. There’s so much food for supper, you could practically feed an army.
Well, an army maybe, but as five o’clock strikes, you face the reality that a family — at least your family — it will not feed.
You try. You offer fish. “We even have some tomato dip left, see?”
You offer chicken soup, but you get resolute shrugs at the sight of the “schmutz” floating in the leftover, twice-reheated broth.
You offer kugel and cholent — “It tastes just like it tasted on Shabbos!” — and three pieces of liver and chicken and farfel. You offer some dried-out deli. (If you call it dehydrated, maybe?) You offer apple pie — the same apple pie you forbade them from sampling just this past Thursday — but even that gets turned down.
Your husband pulls up a chair, and the kind soul actually eats a bit of everything listed above. (If you serve the liver over the farfel, it’s like, delicious, really, I would even eat some myself, except I don’t want to become fleishig.)
And that’s when you admit defeat. Out comes the Betty Crocker, both the milchig and the fleishig one. Out comes a package of boneless chicken thighs, which you urgently plant under running water to thaw. By the night’s end, your kids have eaten everything from frozen pizza to Sloppy Joes. Someone even ate up the chicken soup that you’d actually considered having later, after that last coffee.
The meal passes eventually, to a round of leftover watermelon.
And if anyone goes to sleep hungry, tomorrow is another day. That day is Monday.
And Monday — let’s say it all together — Monday is schnitzel.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 808)
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