I don’t mind cooking but I’ve never LOVED it. Over the years, I’ve become an acceptable cook. However, if I’m rushed or busy, cooking is one thing that I’m willing to rapidly drop way down on my priority list.
What parent isn’t hurried and busy?
Couple this normally occurring chaos with an interesting fall bird migration heating up in our area and yeah, I’ve lost my give a damn again.
Chris gets home about 5 every evening. And during the longer days of summer, we were able to eat dinner when he got home and then would rush out for some birding afterwards because there was plenty of light left.
The days are getting shorter. So we’ve been trying to get out for some birding as close to when Chris arrives home from work as possible, saving dinner for 7:30 at night or so.
This doesn’t bother me. And it actually seems to be working pretty well for Mac too. I can get him a snack when he gets up from his nap and then he can have dinner about 3 hours later and go nearly straight to bed with an unquestionably full belly, thus far, eliminating that annoying thing he was doing where he might demand a substantial snack about 9:00 in the evening.
It does make for some hurried meal preparation. While Mac naps, I prepare a snack for him and Chris plus the bulk of the dinner we plan to eat later in the evening. I’ve always tried to plan weeknight meals that are healthful and quick to prepare/cook. Unfortunately, in my rushed bird-crazed state, I’m clearly skimping on the details.
Take Monday night’s fish tacos for example. . .
Monday morning Mac and I had the extreme pleasure of sighting a wood duck (amongst other things) at the Patterson Park Boat Lake. I’ve been unsuccessfully stalking a wood duck in that location since at least last April. I wanted to make sure Chris got a good look at that bird after work if possible.
So I did as much prep as I could during Mac’s nap. I got the stroller ready, the dogs’ food and meds ready, I prepared a snack, and prepped dinner.
In terms of prepping dinner, I cooked some brown rice and mixed in some corn and black bean salsa and just set it aside in a covered dish. I placed the tortillas in the foil to heat later. I set the table, chopped cilantro, rinsed and tore the lettuce, moved the sour cream and salsa to the front of the fridge. I also grated some cheese and put aside the baking pan for the fish.
Things were going along well and we bagged our Wood Duck. We arrived home about 6:50 and Chris promptly took off for his run while I pre-heated the oven.
And here’s where the wheels predictably fall off the damned dinner cart. . .
Mac is obsessed with the oven so I have to drag him to the basement and put him in his pack and play until I jam the fish in there. I had previously thawed some haddock or whatever mild white fish Chris procured from the grocer this week.
While Mac protested in the basement, I hurriedly sprayed a baking sheet with olive oil, freed the fish from its shrink wrapped packaging and jammed it in the oven as fast as I possibly could.
I fetch Mac from the basement, throw everything else on the table, make sure we have serving spoons and set about making Mac a cheese quesadilla.
I need to check the fish so I wait until Mac is halfway across the house with his back turned engrossed with some piece of filth on the floor to sneak a look in the oven. Most people would just peek through the window. . .our oven door window is so shamefully dirty you can’t see through it.
Decide the fish needs flipped. Take a huge risk and fully open the door pull out the tray and flip the fish. Throw in the tortillas.
Mac starts yammering “Seat. Seat.” This means either A) He has to use the potty seat or B) He’s hungry and wants in his high chair. I hold my breath hoping it’s the latter. He heads towards the high chair. Whew.
Put him in the high chair, jam a sippy cup in his mouth and simultaneously attempt to cut quesadilla bites with the other hand.
Fear fish is over-baking into a dry mushy lump at this point.
Get the fish and tortillas out of the oven.
Chris gets back from his run and paces around for a few minutes doing his weird walking lunges.
I plate up our dinners. We sit down and say grace.
I have a fork-load of rice halfway to my mouth when Chris asks where the avocado is?
Right. I forgot that. . .because it needed cut just before we eat it. . .and well, aside from all the other gyrations I just went through to get this meal on the table, I have no excuse.
I apologize and put my fork down.
Chris offers to get it himself.
Avocado crisis averted, we continue eating.
Chris has scarfed down half his soft taco when he says, “I guess I didn’t do a good job picking the fish for these tacos? I should have picked something else with more flavor maybe?”
“Well. . .” I begin, “It might not be the fish per se. I was in a huge hurry so I didn’t take the time to season it really. Plus, I thought Mac might not like it seasoned.”
“But I though I bought a lime for this dinner?” Chris queries.
LIME? LIME? SINCE WHEN ARE YOU INCAPABLE OF CUTTING LIME?! I fight the reflexive urge I’m having to kick him under the table.
“Yes,” I say calmly, “There’s a lime in the fruit bowl. I just forgot about it too between the cilantro, the kid, the snacks, the birding, and so forth. Would you like me to cut some lime wedges?”
“No. . .no. . .It’s ok. . .” his voice trails off. . .Leaving us in a short moment of tense silence.
Mac surveys the scene cautiously, squeezing avocado between his pudgy little fists.
I’m not feeling particularly combative probably due to the good birding and that half a glass of wine I did have time to squeeze in while neglecting to cut up the avocado and lime.
So I decide to see what his next move is. . .
“I’m sorry,” he says, “I sound all complain-ey don’t I?”
“A little,” I laugh.
Mac resumes licking the now guacomole-textured avocado off his fingers.
Daddy’s a smart man. Or at least has a very good sense about self-preservation.
The thing is, I’m forced to sadly acknowledge he’s right. . .
Good-bye, Culinary Give-A-Damn. . .My family really hopes to see you again SOON!