Aside from “your sister’s hot”, I can’t think of three words more contentious in a marriage than “what’s for dinner?” From personal experience, I have been nearly divorced several times over just for wondering out loud what the plans for dinner were.
It is, I admit, a loaded question. I am no stranger to kitchens or cooking… I probably prepare 2-3 of the family meals a week, by my own completely biased estimation. I do not, however, plan any of them. Therein lies the problem.
Food equals love
I keep hearing about the five love languages, so I googled it and discovered that according to wikipedia they are “ gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch“. I can tell you immediately that the author is clearly not Italian, because there would be a sixth love language, and that’s Food. You might be inclined to write it off as an act of service, but to me very clearly if you feed me you love me.
I know this is dumb and I try to tell myself that just because my son doesn’t want to eat my experimental Indian kabobs he still loves me, but it does get in the way of otherwise normal social interactions. For example: this weekend.
I found myself in a rare situation this weekend where most of the family was out before lunch, so I started to make an absurdly elaborate lunch for everyone. When I was all finished I checked my phone, because by now it was getting late and I was getting worried, and I saw a text message.
We were starving, stopped for lunch, be home soon.
I was angry. Blindly, irrationally angry. I realized I was angry, and it was irrational, but I couldn’t stop feeling angry about it.
HOW DARE THEY REJECT MY LOVE.
At least that’s what it felt like. It felt like betrayal. She never stops for lunch. She must have done it on purpose.
Mrs. Nostrikethat arrived home to find me banging pots and pans in the kitchen sink, trying to clean up.
“Okay… because if that pan was a child I would be calling CPS right now.”
“… You stop for lunch and therefore rejected my love and I know it’s stupid but I’m upset and you asked and just leave me alone I’ll get over it after I get done cleaning the giant mess I made in the kitchen.”
“Okay… I’m just going to wait. Over. Here.”
Bordering on obsession
I will wake up in the morning and start thinking about dinner. In fact, I have been known to think about tomorrow’s dinner while eating tonight’s. I live to eat, and I’m lucky enough to have an inefficient metabolism. Consequently, I can still eat pretty close to whatever I imagine.
To me, dinner is a World of Possibilities! and therefore requires intense planning and commitment. I need to know if I have to take something out of the freezer to defrost, or do I have to marinate something, or will dinner magically be ready when I’m hungry? Anything could happen, it’s magic dinner time!
To my wife, dinner is a lot more like this:
Daily meal preparation is a grind. Especially when you’re cooking for children, most of whom would just eat hot dogs eight days a week if you let them. With three swimmers in the family I’m not even the loudest voice wanting to know what the plan is, just the one with access to text messages.
It’s bizarre I know, but this is pretty much what’s going on in my head. With all of the uncertainty in my life, I like the predictability of knowing where my next meal is coming from, when it’s coming, and if I have to do anything to make it come on time.
I’d like to add at this point before I go from “almost divorced” to “actually divorced” that not only is Mrs. Nostrikethat an accomplished cook, but she has delivered countless meals under pressure, and often single-handedly, to a less than enthusiastic audience. Despite there being a thousand and one different ways to cook chicken, it’s a moot point if none of the kids will even glance at one thousand of them. There’s maddeningly little room for creativity and despite both of our best efforts we tend to have 4-5 meals in heavy rotation with another dozen or so making regular appearances. The meal planning gets done when the grocery list is made and everyone always gets fed. Still, Mrs. Nostrikethat is always on the lookout for ways to make everything go smoothly, so we invested in a chalkboard.
For two weeks, it was bliss.
Right there, in the kitchen, was My Week In Dinner. It was amazing. Then this started happening:
Dinners are still happening, of course. Meals are still being planned and executed, usually by not-me. I clearly have no room to complain, but I do anyways because I’m a Man of a Certain Age and that’s what we do best.
Besides growing hair in all the wrong places. I am awesome at that too.
There’s a zen koan I picked up somewhere that’s stuck with me, probably because it’s about dinner.
The simple man wakes up in the morning, does his work, and wonders what’s for dinner. The complex man wakes up in the morning, does his work, and worries about the problems of the world. The enlightened man wakes up in the morning, does his work, and wonders what’s for dinner.
I thought at one point that I was overly simplistic. If we are to believe Ye Old Timey Folk Wisdom, two of a man’s three favorite things are supposed to be beer and food, and I would definitely self-identify with being a man. After some reflection, I don’t think I’m overly simplistic– in fact my problem is exactly the opposite. I have too much on my mind. In a world where decision fatigue is a real thing, I just want someone else to make the decision for me. I’m happy to help, I’m happy to do as I’m told, I just need to know because maybe, just maybe, enlightenment awaits.
Or meatloaf. Either way, I’m good.
This post is dedicated with all of my heart to Mrs. Nostrikethat, who gets to work early and stays late every single day despite hazardous working conditions and abysmal pay. I kid because I love dear. 🙂