Our time at Mom’s house was filled with fun, family time, lots of laughter, and of course, food. While there, we enjoyed a collection of Mom and Rich’s best from the kitchen and the grill, sprinkled with a parade of desserts that have left us all in detox here at home.
After nearly three weeks away, I find myself back in my own kitchen. For the most part, it is empty, except for the half-eaten roasted chicken Greg has been nibbling on the past few days. My freezer is not filled with my usual stash of homemade muffins, pre-made sauces and other meals to fill the day. My pantry is a bit weak on granola, orzo, and other staples. My fridge is lacking in fruits, vegetables, and cheese. It is a wasteland, just sitting there begging me to make it flourish again.
But something else is missing, too. My desire to cook for the family. I find it a bit surprising, but since returning a few days ago, it has been very hard to get myself back in the kitchen. While at Mom’s both she and Richard took on the task of feeding the family, a task I know they enjoyed. As they whipped up some of our family favorites, as well as some of theirs, I served as a sous chef, the cleanup person, the ‘Do you need me to do anything?’ person. But I never found myself preparing a full meal for all of us. I had the two of them to fall back on.
Now, I’m on my own, and my family looks at me and asks, “What are we having for snack, what’s for lunch, dinner . . . and everything in between?” I’m not really ready to answer. I haven’t planned, and I’m still two steps behind when it comes to getting a meal going before someone tugs at my shirt and says, “I’m hungry, Mom.”
For a brief moment, I feel I might fall into the take-out abyss. That I might spend most of my time at the frozen food aisle, filling the shopping cart with box after box of TV dinners, that I might (dare I say it?) memorize the phone number for pizza delivery. If I did, at least I won’t be alone.
Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst of NPD Group, a consumer market research company, has been warning of the death of home cooking for several years. That’s because the NPD Group’s annual Eating Patterns in America report has found that there is a decline in dinners from scratch. Statistics report that in 1984, Americans made 72 percent of dinners from scratch. By 2008, that number dropped to 57 percent, and Balzer predicts that the number will eventually reach zero – although not in his lifetime.
The report further reveals that 65 percent of respondents said that they still prepared most of the meals they eat, but the NPD Group notes that the definition of ‘prepared’ has most likely changed. This is supported by the fact that we are eating more meals in our homes, but there is no increase in the number of homemade meals prepared there.
Here at Family Eats, we seem to buck the trend, making our meals at home, from scratch, on a daily basis. But we know, we are not the norm. And, we realize the getting meals on the table, eating them together, and choosing healthy meal options takes time, energy, ability, and desire.
Now that I have had a three-week hiatus from my own kitchen, I realize how hard it is to get back into the kitchen, cooking from scratch, when you haven’t been there in a while. But I suppose it is just like riding a bike. I have to jump back on and start peddling. Last night, it was a family favorite — lasagna with homemade grissini. The “I love lasagna and breadstick”s chant from the kids rekindled my kitchen ways. Today, I’m ready to shift into high gear and get back in the ‘saddle’ once again.
Here is an easy-to-make breadstick recipe that is a great way to get the kids involved in dinner preparation (they love rolling the sticks out), and a definite crowd pleaser.
- 2 tsp active dried yeast
- ½ cup lukewarm water
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- extra olive oil, sea salt, pepper and fennel seeds
Sprinkle the dried yeast over the water and leave until foaming.
Place the flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the honey, olive oil and yeast mixture. Combine and knead well until smooth. Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with a tea towels and allow it to stand in a draft-free spot until the dough has doubled in size – about 1 hour. Punch down gently. Allow the dough to double in size again – about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Break off small pieces of dough the size of a walnut and roll each into a thin sausage about 10” long. Roll grissini in olive oil, fennel seed, crystal salt and pepper. Bake immediately, space well apart on a baking tray, for 15 minutes until browned and crisp. Remove from the oven and once again roll in the olive oil, salt and fennel seed mixture before cooling..
Makes 2-4 dozen depending on size. Source: Everyday Epicurean, Catherine Bell. Ten Speed Press (2000)