Little Joy in Mealville

I take pride in tackling my stay-at-home dad responsibilities. I’m pretty good at them, too. Being good at something and enjoying the task, however, are two different things. For instance, dusting is my least-favorite household chore. I find this task more satisfying when a heavy coating of dust has accumulated. But sometimes I look at the dust-coated tennis trophies on my bookshelf and question, Why did I win so many?

With dusting at the top of my least-favorite list of household duties, preparing meals is a close second. Every single day, three times a day, breakfast, lunch, and supper time roll around.

Preparing meals is challenging on a number of fronts. First, I’m not the best of cooks. My wife, Mattie, still laughs at the time we were newlyweds when I decided to fry hamburgers for the first time. I used a rubber spatula meant to scrape cake batter to flip the burgers.

“Why is one-fifth of my spatula missing?” My investigation didn’t take long. White flecks of rubber dotted the burgers in my frying pan. Case closed. I don’t think too many cookbooks include photos of burgers topped with melted rubber snowflakes.

Since I’ve become the stay-at-home parent, I’m a much better cook, though I still wouldn’t brag. If practice makes perfect, I’m in need of a whole lot more.

Second, it’s not always a question of how to make something, but rather what to make each day, three times a day. There are only so many ways I know how to make chicken, and Mattie and Jessie aren’t red-meat eaters. Jessie must have heard I made hamburgers filled with white flecks of rubber. We can’t eat at restaurants all the time, either. I need money in the budget to buy Swiffer dusters.

Last, but not least, I want to serve healthy meals for my family. Healthy meals and a finicky tween don’t go well together. From day one, vegetables haven’t been Jessie’s best friend. I can understand her spitting out some of that stuff I tried to feed her from baby jars. Pureed green beans, blah. Pureed peas, yuck. Who knows, maybe that’s when I set the tone for Jessie’s lack of desire for vegetables.

Then, during her early school years, there was a time I think Jessie would have eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for all 21 meals during the week if I had let her. She might have substituted a few helpings of macaroni and cheese for variety.

Now, during the tween years, it seems that Jessie’s menu has shrunk even more. She’s even tired of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Maybe it’s time I bring Jessie in with her thoughts.

    Jessie, Age 12
    I guess I am a bit of a picky eater. I don’t eat much meat or products with meat or gelatin in them. I am an animal lover and feel bad for the poor animals that died to make my food. I do eat a bit of chicken and rarely a marshmallow. Sorry chickens. I’m also a picky eater when it comes to veggies. I eat some of them, but others such as mushrooms aren’t my favorite. Lastly, I get tired of foods a lot. These things really restrict the things Dad can feed me, especially since he isn’t a professional cook. He only really started being the full-time cook since I was born. Basically, my diet consists of fruit, pasta, hard-boiled eggs, and anything with bread in it! Now, let’s get back to Dad.

After reading Jessie’s take, I’m reversing the order of my least-favorite household chores – cooking number one, dusting in second, and I’ll save the topic of ironing for another column.

But whether I’m spreading peanut butter on bread or pushing a dust cloth, one thing is certain ’tween daughter and dad, I love my girl and my girl loves me.

Until next month, remember to cherish the moments. Happy Mother’s Day! I miss my mother’s delicious cooking – free of melted rubber.