There’s a cookbook author and food blogger I follow who’s recorded what she’s cooked or eaten for dinner every night for the past 25 years. Every night! On July 12, 1999, she and her boyfriend (now husband) dined on sour chicken stir fry in their Brooklyn Heights apartment. On September 11, 2001, for obvious reasons, she never made it home for dinner. On May 30, 2009, she served panko-crusted sole with chopped salad to her husband and two young daughters at their home in Westchester. And so on. When I first read about this, I couldn’t help but think about all the dinners I wanted to forget. Just last week I mixed up the salt and sugar in my grandmother’s spaghetti sauce recipe, rendering it inedible for everyone except my middle daughter who begged for seconds.
I don’t know about you, but dinner at my house is a loud, messy and chaotic affair. I’ve tried so many things—themed nights (Taco Tuesday! Kids’ Choice! Meatless Monday!), meal delivery kits, weekly meal calendars, paleo—but nothing sticks. Everyone wants to know what’s for dinner, and no one seems happy with the answer, except my husband, who will pretty much eat anything. Over time I’ve learned to lower my standards; if two out of five people like what I prepared, I count it as a win.
While I was initially dismissive of a dinner diary (who wants all their dinner fails recorded for posterity??), I now see it as an act of love. For over two decades, this woman has been faithfully feeding her family with more than just food. Night after night, she’s given them a place to gather, unwind and refuel. Maybe the chicken’s overcooked and the broccoli under seasoned, but everyone is at the table. And that’s the most important ingredient of all.