Martin is in Dublin for work. I am here in Seattle, as always. On my own with 3 kids, a puppy, a cat, those volunteer commitments, carpools, lunchboxes to pack, laundry and yes, dinner. Even though I love to cook dinner, I think it’s dinner – during a week when I’m on my own – that puts me over the edge.
I hate the way it goes: home from school, snack, homework, breaking up squabbles, nagging about homework, prepping for dinner, breaking up squabbles, cooking dinner, nagging about homework, serving dinner, sending them up to put their pajamas on, cleaning up dinner, brushing teeth, reading stories, snuggling, bed. And that was skipping a bunch of nagging and breaking up more squabbles. One night at that intensity and I am wiped out. A week of it and it takes a month to recover. The cleaning up after dinner on top of everything else seems like an insult and I just want to cry or go to the movies (by myself of course) and (of course) I can’t. So I have to make a plan.
This week I am taking a page out of my friend Sarah’s book and I am going to feed my kids dinner right after school. I am going to call it tea, in the English sense, not just tea and cookies but tea and some real food. Here are my requirements of this week’s menus:
- I don’t want to have to clean up much – just rinse the plates and put them in the dishwasher. No pots. No caramelized gunge on a roasting pan.
- I want it to feel fun – not the everyday, run-of-the-mill dinner.
- The food should not be challenging
- I want everyone to go to bed feeling nourished and loved and calm
- I only want to eat take-out pizza once, and since I did that last night (on the first night he was gone)- it’s no longer an option
Really I want this every night – who wouldn’t? Sanity with kids is a lot easier to achieve when there is another person around. This week we will have easy food, calming food, some might call it nursery food. We will have things like Welsh rarebit one night, small tea sandwiches (which I can make early in the day) with some kind of sturdy apple or carrot cake (I might actually buy this at a bakery – even though I LOVE to bake a sturdy cake with dried apples or dates or something), maybe cauliflower cheese. We will have a snack at bedtime, (wouldn’t it be terrible to have someone crying about being hungry at bedtime this week? ) so maybe a small bagel and cream cheese or some yogurt. I think this is what children in British novels in the 1920’s and 30’s would have after school. Tea meant dinner. And really, for kids under the age of 10, maybe this is the way to go. Life for children is challenging. We expect them to do all this homework and swim and be little gymnasts, and paint and socialize nicely. Maybe dinner shouldn’t challenge them again at the end of the day. Maybe I’m onto to something here, or at least my friend Sarah is. She seems to know everything.
So, after looking at the schedule – really only Tuesday is going to work exactly the way I want it to. That’s the day we’re all home by 4:30. But that’s ok. What we’ll have is a proper high tea. People in the states often confuse this with something really fancy, which it is not. High tea is a working man’s dinner, with tea. Here’s the definition from Wikipedia:
High Tea (also known as meat tea) is an early evening meal, typically eaten between 5pm and 6pm. It would substitute for both afternoon tea and the evening meal.
High Tea would usually consist of cold meats, eggs or fish, cakes and sandwiches. In a family, it tends to be less formal and is an informal snack (featuring sandwiches, biscuits, pastry, fruit and the like) or else it is the main evening meal.
Here are some of this things I am thinking about for the week. We all like tea so there will be rooibos with everything, not real black tea. The last thing I need is three kids amped up on caffeine. Also, I am going to start the sales and marketing tonight. I have to get the kids invested and excited about “all tea – every night ” this week. I’m hoping they will be kind of intrigued because we don’t ever have high tea for dinner. Also I get to skip tonight, Sunday, because we are going out for Chinese with my dad. Thank goodness for Chinese food and also that my kids like it.
(Ok. So this isn’t that different from any other dinner but we were supposed to eat these sausages tonight)
- Oven Grilled Sausages (roasting pan lined with foil to minimize caramelized gunge)
- Hot Buttered Toast
- Crudité and Yogurt Dip
- Fresh Pineapple – my dad brought me one, randomly
- Chicken, white cheddar and chutney sandwiches on whole grain bread
- Cucumber and creamy garlic goat cheese sandwiches also on whole grain
- Pear walnut cake – from the bakery on 15th and Republican
- Apples and celery with peanut butter
- Welsh Rarebit with Toast Fingers
- Cucumber, edamame, celery salad
- French Toast with Berry Compote
I am planning to do all the shopping on Tuesday. I have everything I need for Monday already.
- Excellent Sharp cheddar for rarebit
- Colombia Bread
- Challah or Brioche Loaf
Looking it all over – these menus look eminently doable. The most complicated night is Tuesday, with all those little sandwiches. The little guy goes to preschool that day so I can prep the garlic goat cheese in about 5 minutes, after I drop him off in the morning. The sandwiches are made easily in the afternoon just before we eat – I will make 3 of each kind to share. I’m going to cut them into small triangles – just like at a real tea. Maybe I’ll even serve them on that 3 tier caddy that’s collecting dust in the cupboard. I have never made Welsh rarebit before but it looks very approachable. It is an English person’s fast weeknight meal – it’s hardly going to be complicated. Just a slow melting of the cheese so it doesn’t seize up. I can do that. French toast: I can make it in my sleep! Right now french toast sounds a little too sweet so maybe I’ll have to adjust the menu later in the week. Not to worry. I can forget about dinner for now. It’s all planned out.