It’s Sunday. The last weekend day of summer. Yes, we have labor day tomorrow – another “day off.” But if you have kids you know – first hand – that labor day is very much full of labor. Getting kids’ school clothes folded or hung. Tossing the chewed up flip flops and grass stained shorts in the Goodwill bag. Making sure you have lunch bags. Water bottles (no plastic, please!). White socks. Underwear that actually fits your kids. And, of course, new shoes. Who doesn’t love new shoes on the first day of school?! We all do, but it means moms and dads schlepping kids in and out of many stores finding ones that don’t feel “weird” “tight” “short” “just not right” “odd” “ummm” “yuck” “flat” “spongy” or “ugly” (a sampling of descriptors I recently overheard by children who will remain unnamed).
My last-sunday-of-summer was NOT spent in a kid’s shoe department, thank goodness. It was dedicated to what I deem an even more “important” task as we prepare for me (Carol) and my darling dumplings (7th and 3rd grade this year!) to head back to school.
My task emerged from a vow I made to never – ever! – in the coming year to utter the dreadful question: “what the heck should we have for dinner?” while simultaneously ending the spending of my entire 401k on Davanni’s Pizza (the Bruess usual: solo traditional crust cheese for 3rd grader, 3-cheese calzone for 7th grader, and turkey hoagie for hubby and me).
It started in early July with a sorting of my favorite recipes, most of them torn pages plucked over the years from Cooking Light, MSLiving, Real Simple, Bon Appetite, the Star Trib, notes jotted from friends’ kitchens, mailings from realtor postcards, and miscellaney printings from my fav recipe sites (what did we do before Epicurious.com?) I also flagged all the yummy-sounding recipes in my Moosewood Restaurant Classics, my 500 Soups Compendium, and my tiny little treasured panini resource manual. All recipes are assigned a number. Numbers are assigned to days. Days are collated into weekly grocery shopping lists. On October 28th, 2008 we’ll be enjoying baked pasta with spinach, ricotta and prosciutto. On November 4th? Butternut squash soup with ginger and veggie burgers. On January 19th: Big bowl quinoa salad and on Feb 5th:” Chicken curry in a hurry.” Sound delicious? I agree. But – why am I surprised? – my kids didn’t think so. After a number of “ewww”s and “grossssss” came the question: “how much butternut squash can you expect a kid to eat in a year?”
So, I decided that while developing a new recipe/menu plan, I should also implement a new family dinner ritual. I’m not sure if it will stick, but the beauty of trying intentionally to develop a new ritual is that no harm done if it fails; no sense in not trying if you think it serves a purpose; and no worries if it doesn’t make it because you can always change it.
The new rule (ritual) at the Bruess house this year: When a meal is cooking or placed lovingly on the dinner table, everyone has to say (not in unison): “Yum. We’re so lucky.”
We are, truly. And so why not say it out loud every single night, eh kids?