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Oct 14, 2010

Feeding the hungry

I find it ironic that just as I am trying to do the cooking part of my job better, the tools that enable that quest conspire against me. Is this Murphy's Law of the culinary arts? Satan's attempt to thwart happy family dinner? A message to my waistline? An unfortunate coincidence? Maybe all of the above.

So to spell it out for you: my oven doesn't work, and my fridge is really lame.

Everyone knows by now that I don't love the kitchen. Dinner prep is one of my least favorite Mommy tasks. But with the recent General Conference counsel that nightly family dinner is on the "top five" list of things that will strengthen a family, I decided to buckle down and make it more meaningful. We always eat together, but the food is mostly an afterthought -- a function-over-form sort of effort. Lately I have been trying to make our dinner conversation more stimulating and the meals more mouthwatering. The effects are noticeable, and not just to our stomachs.

Complicating my efforts, however, are the kitchen appliances. The oven has been on the fritz for several weeks, but "the fritz" is just a resurfacing of an old problem: it can't seem to stay warm long enough to cook dinner. It pre-heats just fine, but then it plays a sneaky game. Sometimes it has the stamina to heat a lasagna for an hour after that, but sometimes brownies spend 45 minutes inside and come out a puddle of salmonella-flavored goop. The oven never shows its hand in advance. It's always warm when the food goes it, but it isn't always warm when the food comes out. I love a friend's analogy: It's like playing Russian Roulette every night for dinner.

So I have been cultivating a relationship with my crockpot. The soup we had Sunday was fantastic. I knew Tuesday would be busy, so I filled the crockpot again with savory ingredients for pulled pork. I tried a new recipe that called for brown sugar and salsa, but couldn't find my notes and went from memory. Sadly, I got the proportions wrong and the meat didn't cook in 8 hours as planned. Dinner was scrapped and we drove through Chick Fil A.

Tonight I offered to take dinner to a friend who is moving tomorrow. Another friend took lasagna and I planned to provide French bread, salad, and brownies. Well, the brownies didn't cook and I couldn't warm the French bread. I pulled the salad ingredients from the veggie drawer in the fridge and they were frozen solid. Half of the lettuce was limp and nasty, and the other half had a coating of frost. The tomatoes and cucumbers weren't fit for consumption. I showed up 15 minutes late at my friend's apartment with a Wendy's Caesar salad and Frostys to complement the homemade lasagna.

After that silly delivery (kids in tow), I drove home to make pancakes for the kids. We had just dropped Zach at football, stopped by Garry's office to say hello (he worked 10 hours Monday, 18 Tuesday, 21 yesterday, and 13 so far today with no end in sight), grabbed salad at Wendy's, and delivered dinner. We were all starving. I pulled out the griddle and then discovered we were out of pancake mix. I didn't have time for a "from scratch" effort before picking Zach up from football practice and running off to a Relief Society meeting. So the kids had cereal after we collected Zach.

When the babysitter arrived, Gavin had just peed his pants, so he was in the tub. Lexi was crying in her bed, protesting an early bedtime. Zach and Tyler were slurping milk at the table. The kitchen was a disaster, despite the fact that I never actually made dinner.

And now, typing this post at 9:30 p.m., I realize that I haven't eaten my own evening meal. Who wants to fix something for me? I'm hungry.
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