“So, what is the most challenging part of living in a household in which the family members range in age from 3 to almost 90?” you ask.
Hmmm…besides the fact that I am almost never alone, and I’m never, ever alone in my own house? Besides the erratic mood swings experienced by the very young, the very old, and the peri-menopausal? Besides the high cost of child-care and granny-care? Besides just always feeling that my husband and I are stretched waaaaay too thin and how I get very concerned about his health? Hey, he–not I–suffered a heart attack just three years ago, so if I’m going to be concerned for anyone’s health, it would be his.
Aside from all that, I’d say it’s the cooking.
But here’s what you need to know about me: I am a good cook—not a great cook, not a gourmet chef, not someone who is classically trained at the Cordon Bleu. I’m a person who once took a knife technique class at a community college. I’m a gal who enjoys food and knows her way around the kitchen, but nothing I cook is terribly complicated and I don’t own a lot of fancy-schmancy, uber-expensive pots and pans.
But I AM a good cook because it is something I enjoy doing, and I’d even make it my hobby if I had time for a hobby, but alas, I don’t—unless you count this blog as a hobby.
Here’s the challenging part: My mother-in-law’s diet is mostly soup. The older a person gets, the less saliva they produce. You know all those enzymes you have in your spit that begin breaking the food down the moment you start to chew? Well, that no longer happens for her. She needs foods that can slide over her tongue and straight down the gullet.
And so, I make a lot of soup. She is particularly fond of orange-colored, pureed soups. Carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato—these are some of her favorites. They all have a velvety texture and are both sweet and savory. Right now, we have potato-leek soup and cream of carrot in the refrigerator–and sweet potato-apple-pepper and cream of asparagus in the freezer. I’ll probably make broccoli-beef, Italian chicken-tomato, and pumpkin-sweet onion later this week.
Really, I think all those soups sound pretty good, but do I eat them? Not very often. How much pureed soup can one person take? And do my children eat them? Well, if your kids tell you they love cream of carrot, please send them over to my house and we can just swap children at mealtime. Mine won’t touch the stuff.
What do my children eat? Well, my daughter recently announced that she wants to be a vegan until her birthday in October. She knows what a vegan is. She told me a vegan doesn’t eat meat or other animal products, but still, this is an interesting proclamation coming from someone who eats a liverwurst and cheese sandwich every day for lunch and whose favorite breakfast is a boiled egg. It’s hard to say how serious she is about this.
My son is a meat-lover. He eats bacon, chicken, and meatballs. He likes raw carrots and steamed broccoli, but only sometimes. “But I don’t like broccoli!” “You loved it yesterday.” “I don’t love it anymore.” What does he consistently love? Cheez-its, goldfish crackers, marshmallows, French fries, and any other non-food masquerading as real food that comes to him via drive-thru window.
I don’t get too stressed out over what my children will and won’t eat. I believe that’s one of the advantages to being an older mom. I’m pretty laid-back about all the things that would have driven me crazy had I been a young mom. At this point, I know a child probably won’t die from malnutrition just because he eats peanut-butter and jelly every day. And I know they go through phases.
Still, I would love to have just one night in which no one complains about the food and I’m not cooking at least two meals.
Of our household, I’d say my husband is the easiest to please when it comes to food. Sadly, he often works late, and so he is either heating up left-overs after I’ve gone to bed or telling me that he just isn’t hungry because he had an afternoon meeting and someone brought cake. Please, people, stop feeding him at the office! I say that because I really do like good food and I like to cook, but I hate cooking that good food for me alone. It’s just not very satisfying to cook a real meal for one!
And it’s just damned unsatisfying and frazzling to heat soup in a microwave for Grandma and hear a 3-year-old whine that he doesn’t like broccoli (or carrots or spinach or whatever vegetable is on his plate), while a 5-year-old says she only wants the noodles, and not the sauce because it has meat or cheese in it. Eye-roll.
Yeah, it’s a good thing I like to cook because otherwise I’d just give up and let these people go hungry.