A Year in Our Kitchen (Week 6): What’s for Dinner?” “None of your Darn Business!”

by Laura on May 26, 2012

in A Year in Our Kitchen, Blog


Yes, I know that’s harsh, but that is exactly the way I feel these days.

When the kids ask the dreaded question, “What’s for dinner?” (for me it is dreaded), I know they ask only so they can determine if they’ll like the meal or not.

Unfortunately, when I ask that fateful question, I brace for the cacophony of groans, moans, and complaints that are destined to come: (and, they come in many forms)

The Loaded Statement: “You’re not making anything I like for dinner.”

The Disappointment: “Oh, all I like is the rice.”

The Demand: “Mom, I hate (fill in the blank), can you make me something else?”

The ‘I’m Taking Things in my Own Hands’ Response: “I’m going to have cereal for dinner.”

The Rhetorical Question: “Why do you always make something I don’t like?”

And, The Accusation: “You do this just so I can be hungry all night long.”

Oh, it is such a downer, especially when I hear these complaints just before I’m ready to start dinner. More often than not, when the first round of complaints are complete, I find myself yelling back at them, “Well, that’s what I’m making, you can eat it or not.”  Or, “I heard you, I don’t want to hear it any longer.” Or, better yet, “Go to your room and complain there.”

Meanwhile, I plod on, shoulders drooping, as I get dinner on the table. With every dish I dirty, every vegetable I steam, I find myself trying to figure out how I am going to handle the impending defiance of, “I don’t like it, I’m not eating.”

I know that I’m not alone. But I also know that there is no way around it. In our house, that defiance will happen from at least one of my kids, regardless of what I serve. So, to save my sanity, I’ve decided to take the tactic of just not telling them what’s for dinner.

“What’s for Dinner? They ask.

“It’s a surprise,” I respond.

[Kids: groan]

“MOM, what’s for dinner?”

[Me: silence]

Oh, they beg. They try to cajole me into telling them. They try to sneak a peek at the stove. But I am restraining. I am holding true to my resolve.


My new NOYDB tactic has lessened the tension in my neck (to some extent), as I don’t feel defeated before I even begin. What I have also found is that the kids have had to find another way to figure out what is for dinner. They use their senses.

They try to sneak a peek of what’s on the stove or in the oven. They listen to what I’m doing – and may hear the sound of something sautéing,  frying, or simply boiling.

As they smell the peanut oil heating in the wok, they ask, “Are those peanut butter noodles?”

I’m only a week or so into it. But for the most part it has worked. Last night, I pulled some of the Mulay’s mild sausage from my freezer. Thinking it was a package of sausage links, dinner was to be sausage with some Spanish rice and a vegetable. But, when I snipped the package open, I realized that it was ground sausage. I had to think quickly, and I decided that we were to have sausage sandwiches – surprisingly, it was something I had not served to the kids before.

I browned the sausage, added a bit of tomato sauce and I was good to go. (no need for an seasonings, as the sausage gave it a good flavor).

They smelled it and started to inquire.

“Mom, that smells great, what is it?”

I gave in to my NOYDM resolve and let them know that I was making sausage sandwiches for dinner.

“Really, can I taste it?”


[pause, for tasting]

“That’s delicious!”

“Hey, can I try?” asked another child.

“Sure can!” I obliged, happily.

Fast forward 10 minutes to dinner. I still had the “Mom, I don’t like it, can you make me a hot dog?” response from one child. But that was only 25% of the kids at the table. The other 75% have two thumbs up – seconds were had, and plates were clean. I’ll take those odds any day.

The morning after, I looked back and tried to assess the situation. Could it simply have been such a delicious dinner, that I should kick myself for not serving it to them sooner? Hmm – possibly.

But I also feel that they were a bit more adventurous by the time dinner was set on the table, because they used their senses to figure out what was for dinner. Instead of asking and determining before the food even was set on the table, they had to think about what they were experiencing (wthout first seeing and tasting). They had to stop and think, “Oh, that smells good, therefore it must be good.”

And it was . . .  at least the majority of us believed it was.

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