“It’s not the cooking that is the problem; it’s the deciding of what to cook that’s the problem.”
That is how my wife describes the daily struggle of deciding what to make for dinner every single night.
It’s hard to overstate how much time and energy is spent on this topic.
When you’re a young adult – either single or even married but childless – this isn’t a big deal. You may experiment with a fancy meal or put together something for a special occasion, but that’s not the norm. Many nights dinner occurs out a restaurant or from a takeout container or is the result of whatever is readily available in the kitchen.
Once kids are involved, and are old enough to eat regular food, dinner planning becomes an albatross around the neck of parents. It’s the daily struggle and even victories are celebrated only briefly because the entire thing will happen again tomorrow. Groundhog Day.
It’s a bit easier on weekends. There is usually time and space so we can do something in the slow cooker and even include the kids in the entire process, but weeknights feel like the lightning round of a game show.
Host: What will you make tonight that everyone likes but that you haven’t made already in the past week?
[Loud buzzer sounds as the crowd groans]
Host: Sorry! Time’s up!
We work hard to constantly come up with home cooked meals that all four of us like that can also be repurposed into lunches the next day. I am often searching websites for recipes and ideas of how to do something fresh with the same basic ingredients. Kids are constantly hungry and they’re still developing, so it’s important that dinner is both filling and nutritious, let alone get the approval of their tastebuds.
Sometimes, though, the intestinal fortitude to make another meal isn’t there or the clock is running down and there is very little hope of having dinner in time without ordering delivery.
Brinner to the rescue.
Sometimes we’ll plan for it (“Eggs tonight?”) but it’s especially satisfying if it’s a surprise to the kids.
Many weeknights, the older one asks, “What’s for dinner?” and it is always with resigned disappointment that it will be something that her parents like but she can barely tolerate. She likes about three things, so unless it’s mac and cheese, she’s not into it. Even homemade nachos no longer get the automatic stamp of approval. Most of her favorites are breakfast foods.
She’s always expecting some answer like honey garlic chicken, roasted potato wedges, and cream of corn, complete with a long story on how long it took to make. So when I keep a straight face and simply say, “Pancakes,” she and her sister begin shouting and jumping and down like they just won the championship.
It’s kind of hard to beat brinner.
The brilliant Chris Turk agrees:
It may make it a bit more difficult to plan lunch for the next day, but that’s a problem for tomorrow.
For this one brief moment, the nightly dinner dragon has been slayed and the townspeople rejoice with their forks full of pancakes.
Christopher Pierznik is the worst-selling author of nine books. Check out more of his writing on Medium. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Please feel free to get in touch at CPierznik99@gmail.com.