In my house, the answer to that, usually is, “Nothing.” I have not been blessed with those super cooking genes the other ladies of the community seem to have. Don’t tell me it’s not genetic. It started off in the Torah with Sarah Imeinu serving her guests great food, and I believe it continued through the generations to the present day super hostesses. You can trace it further — even Chava was trying to feed her husband. Well, she tried and we all know how that turned out. Similar to the outcomes of my dinners — lots of complaints and troubles.
But the yom tovim are arriving and that’s the time when I normally take my cooking up a notch and actually “try.” I like Jamie Geller’s magazines and website although even her ideas are sometimes too complicated for me. I believe the more children I have, the fewer steps to a recipe and fewer ingredients required for a recipe, that I will tolerate in the all important judgment of “that looks good, I’d like to try it,” or “what do they think I am, a professional chef? How am I supposed to do all that?”
I’ll try and this is also the time of year- not coincidentally — when I invite the most quests. We keep the oven turned on for a change and that gives me the final impetus to plan good meals and serve them to lots of people. By the end of Sukkos, I am ready to shelve the cookbooks and magazines for another year.
Most dinners in my house are not original or complicated. Basic zitis, lasagnas, meatloaf, etc. The children pretty much just want yogurt or frozen pancakes for dinner anyway. My husband has learned to live with my inadequacies. In the beginning, he was so easy to please. He didn’t know the “behind the scenes” of food so he thought spaghetti was a great dinner. He caught on quickly though and began to expect real meals that took more time. But for the most part, he’s given up on that and deals with whatever gets served to him. I tried to explain to him that for the most part, most families eat what we eat on weeknights. The ladies of the house really don’t do anything extraordinary. Shabbos is a different story. Most women pull out all the stops with many different salads, kugels, main dishes, etc. I serve a more basic meal, choosing fresh vegetables over processed kugels, and economically choosing one main considering the number of eaters in my family and how much everyone hates leftovers.
I have had a few “rock bottom” moments, but they haven’t pushed me to change my habits that much. One time, my children were asking me to make something like what they made at the hotel for Pesach. I nervously thought they must mean some fancy dish that I can’t hope to replicate. It turns out, they were talking about omelets. My poor, deprived children don’t even get eggs very often and have begun to think of it as a delicacy.
Another crazy story is how my daughter truly believes that the frozen cookie batches are “baking cookies.” She asks to do it and is so proud of herself for arranging the cookies on the pan. Part of me hopes she never learns the truth that some people bake cookies from raw ingredients.
So, that’s “what’s for dinner” in my house. Baruch Hashem, I do have other assets that I believe my family acknowledges and is thankful for. But I’m sure there are times when they would rather have a good dinner than a good article written that week.