I attempted to buoy my sinking feelings of incompetence as my family’s chef de cuisine by reasoning with myself. At least they are organic, nitrate-free hot dogs, I told myself. But it was also the second of three nights that I’d served a frozen vegetable from a bag and starchy side from a box. Organic tater tots from a bag, and all-natural mac ‘n’ cheese from a box, but food from bags and boxes nevertheless. Dished up with a good-sized dollop of ketchup, which we continually must remind our eldest daughter, is not to be eaten by the spoonful.
Where had my inspiration to feed my family well-thought-out, nourishing food gone?
Gone alongside other good-for-you practices I’d unintentionally scrapped, like drinking water instead of wine and taking the dog for a walk, since we’d become a family of four instead of three. Lost, along with those daycare bills that are overdue and the library books I haven’t returned, in the futile fight to find enough time to do all the things I should do as a mom.
But feeding my family good, balanced, homemade meals is too important an aspiration to surrender. And so I recently pledged to take back control of our cuisine.
My recently revived interest in honest food came out of Emme’s latest development. With one tooth already arrived and another on the way, we’ve begun her first meals. In anticipation of introducing my baby to the wild and wonderful world of food, I amassed a cornucopia of local and organic fruits and vegetables prior to the onset of winter (and the closure of the Telluride Farmer’s Market). In a feverish spell of off-season kitchen inspiration, I filled the freezer and pantry with all manner of homemade baby food: Beets, carrots, pears, peaches, applesauce, all tucked away in jars and freezer bags, eagerly awaiting their debut on Emme’s first foods menu.
I was especially excited about the giant box of winter squash I’d purchased from one of my favorite Farmer’s Market vendors back in October.
“I’m going to make baby food!” I’d announced to the farmer as she handed me my brimming box, pleased with myself for being so forward-thinking and, well, good.
This was Emme’s reaction to winter squash: A full-body gag that erupted into projectile vomiting across the dinner table.
So I missed the target on winter squash. But the intention – to provide the people I cook for, including the littlest member of the family who is just now learning to taste, the best and most wholesome foods available to me – was worthy, right? So I didn’t let Emme’s explosive reaction to winter squash dissuade me from aspiring for healthy, home-cooked greatness.
I’ve recently attempted to follow the tenet, preached by writers of natural-living magazines, that planning ahead is the secret to feeding your family good food when you don’t exactly have that much time to spend in the kitchen. “Cook extra!” they urge. “Preserve, preserve, preserve!” they advocate.
Breakfast is always a struggle around here. Too often, Elle is sent off to preschool having eaten little more than a few bites of cold cereal (yes, it is the “organic” version of Frosted Mini-Wheats, but Frosted Mini-Wheats nevertheless.) So last weekend I busted out the baking gear and got to work making some good-for-you breakfast muffins I’d found a recipe for in one of those aforementioned natural living magazines.
The first indication that neither my child nor my husband would be that interested in my well-intentioned muffins emerged when the recipe called for yogurt instead of butter. Agave nectar instead of sugar. Whole wheat flour. Apple juice. Toasted wheat germ.
I’ll work my magic and these will be delicious! I’ll stick them in the freezer for a quick, healthy, brilliant breakfast whenever I don’t have the time to prepare a fresh breakfast! I ruminated.
Well-intentioned, good-for-you muffins emerged from the oven like little muffin-shaped globs of papier-maiche. I now have 24 in the freezer. I choke one down every once in a while. It’s just a pride thing.
So I haven’t exactly figured out how to feed my family the very most nutritious, sustainable, and delicious food, when my time seems to flutter away like so many snowflakes that dance and flicker but refuse to turn into anything substantial. But I have not given up. On tonight’s menu: Cheeseburgers. But! Natural, no-hormone, grass-fed cheeseburgers. And for Emme? Rice cereal. I’m still a little gun-shy.