Dinnertime used to make me want to impale myself with an instant-read thermometer. The heat. The mess. The complaints.
No more. I’ve changed my life, and so can you! Here are some handy tips to get you out of your doldrums and into the kitchen.
1) Drink. Alcohol is a great stress reducer, and everything looks better after a glass of wine (not unlike dating). By the time the night is over, you’ll be crowing “Bite this, Ina Garten.”
2) Make sure everyone else is drinking. Lowering one’s own expectations is only half the battle, unless you’re eating alone. This rule does not apply to children. That would be illegal. I looked it up.
3) Cook what you want to eat. You can’t please everyone, so please yourself. Develop a sense of Zen about hot sauce on delicately flavored entrees, selective ingredient-picking and sentences like “it’s not my favorite.” Practice saying “If you don’t like it, feel free to cook tomorrow.” Be prepared to follow through.
4) Just make the Mac and Cheese already. Not the Gruyere/Emmentaler version laced with truffle oil and lobster meant to “expand their palate”. Kids don’t like anything that isn’t as orange as a stadium full of Dutch soccer fans. Accept this and you will know peace.
5) Get the right gear. Nothing says “I’m a real cook” more than having a potato ricer, a convection oven, and Dean and Deluca smoked sea salt in your kitchen. Even if you never use them.
6) Put on music. Cooking should be fun! It’s even more effective if you sing and dance along. Need an extra booster? Tell your teen son you’re going to “drop it like it’s hot,” or that the dinner recipe includes “Cup a Ace, Cup a Goose, Cup a Cris.” Snap a pic of his horrified face for future inspiration.
7) Get someone more competent to help you. Like playing tennis with an ace, working with a better cook raises one’s game. If you play your cards right, they’ll tell you to ditch the apron and let them take over because you’re totally useless.
8) Get someone less competent to help you. If something goes wrong in the kitchen, ask for help. Make sure to tell your dinner guests that “Bobby was SO helpful.” Put finger quotes around helpful. Non Est Mea Culpa.
9) Add butter. Because everything is better with butter. Cheese sauce, chocolate and sprinkles often work as well.
10) Tell your diners “It’s French.” Even if it’s chicken. Call it poulet. Quote Julia Child. If they look less than impressed, say things like “The French have such a refined palate,” and “Not everyone can appreciate true cuisine.” Poor creatures–fatally limited by their own lack of sophistication.
If the above ten steps don’t work, pull a Spinal Tap-worthy 11 and get take out. Better yet, do step one, then jump all the way to 11. Learn to Love Cooking in Two Easy Steps! As Martha Stewart says, “Now that’s a good thing.”
Photograph “The Instrument” by Sierra Blair © 2005 Creative Commons/Flickr