ED being the primary chef, when she is out of town, I arrange the meals. One night is usually sandwich night with Mike taking the boys out. I try to plan a “real meal” on at least one of the other nights. With my current bum knee restricting my ability to be on my feet, I look for easy fixes. Last night I served left-over pasta with Italian-style meatballs (from the freezer section) and the remains of a jar of pasta sauce. Amazingly, everyone ate it. I asked the boys to not tell their mother than there were no veggies. Immediately Mowgli delightfuly texted to inform her.
My theory toward appetite is simple: if one is truly hungry and the food is decent, one will eat. I adopted a strategy that my sister shared: if kids say they are hungry, offer an apple. If they refuse, they aren’t really hungry. I even use it on myself.
No longer regularly cooking meals, I find that this previously automatic duty has become a challenge. Dealing with selective preferences and sensitivities sets up blocks that my mind is not interested in scaling. A kitchen teeming with supplies is overwhelming. If the boys have snacked after school, appetites are wanting. Even so, we insist upon a few minutes together at the table to touch base. No one is forced to eat; but no one is allowed a “treat” later.
Mealtime in my childhood home was a time when the family did come together. Often including one of our friends, the six of us plus crowded together in the kitchen or the porch to enjoy plain but solid food. There was conversation, laughter, pouting and whining. Our mother did not allow the option of not eating, and complaints about the food were not allowed. Visiting my future in-laws for dinner the first time was an eye-opener: there was no conversation. Everyone just ate quietly. I thought it was refreshing until I married and experienced quiet meals every night.
It took a while after moving in together for us to find a rhythm to suppertime. And it keeps evolving as our schedules change. Initially meals were often unpleasant, with the boys whining about. . . everything. But as they’ve matured, even mealtimes when they refuse to eat are nourishing. Those few moments when a family is together in a room, looking each other in the eye, sharing a basic need is as satisfying as the meal itself. And if anyone is hungry later, they can have an apple.