On Sunday nights when I was growing up, my mother did not cook. My parents would pile my three brothers and me in the back of the station wagon for a night out at one of four local restaurants: Ho Sai Gai, Tony’s Italian Villa, Valley’s Steak House, or Howard Johnsons. As soon as the four of us kids had finished arguing about who got the “way back”, we would begin to argue vehemently about which one of the four fine dining establishments we should patronize that evening.
Silently, my dad would head to the nearby rotary. There, he would simply drive round and round, until one or two or three of us got sick and relented to the stronger stomached sibling. Once there was agreement, my dad would mercifully take us off the rotary and head to the agreed upon restaurant. If we were too sick to eat, too damned bad.
If that were my family today, I am quite sure we would never get off the rotary. Because my family, like many families these days, is not quite so easy.
This is what it is like to plan a “family meal” for my family and their significant others:
Family Members 1 and 2: They both enjoyed significant weight loss by eating basically the following three things—lean protein, lettuce, scotch. No grain. No fruit (too much sugar). Limited fat. No bread. Basically, they don’t eat. But we keep plenty of clear alcohol around for them because really, something needs to get them through the day. Scotch, to the rescue!
Family Member 3: Pesca vegan (for health reasons-not because she particularly cares about eating animals). This member eats fish (as long as it is wild caught), eggs (as long as they are organic, cage free), but no dairy, no meat or poultry, nothing processed, and all fruits and vegetables should be organic.
Family Member Friend: Loves interesting beers of all kinds and all sorts of processed foods and is happy he gets them mostly to himself.
Family Member 4: Eats everything, but is watching her weight, so she eats everything in moderation. She is quite certain everyone else is out of their minds (“who won’t eat a strawberry, for god’s sake?” she has been known to say.) Yes, she is over 70. Everyone else obviously knows strawberries are evil, especially if they aren’t organic.
Family Member 5: Used to loved meat of all sorts- the more, the better. Went to this food as medicine lecture a few months ago, and for health reasons, has decided to go mostly vegan. (We made grilled pizza the other day…honestly…mushed avocado instead of cheese and red sauce?) However, on special occasions he will have dairy, fish or meat or all of them combined. This kid could NEVER give up ice cream. I’d bet my life on it.
Family Member Significant Other: Vegetarian (because she does care about the animals). Easy-peasy.
Family Member: This child used to get so excited over a hamburger that her mouth would tremble when she ordered one. She is now mostly vegan, also for health reasons.
Family Member Friend: Strict vegan, none of the “mostly” plant based stuff that is so lame. No eggs, no dairy, no meat, no poultry.
Family member that I sleep with each evening: Let’s just say if we don’t have a variety of good scotches in inventory, Chips Ahoy cookies and Stacie’s chips, he is very, very unhappy boy. Mushroom burgers? Forget it.
Me: I am so confused I am not even sure what I am eating from one day to the next. In the past month I have been low sugar, vegan, pesca-vegan, low carb, no processed foods…but then…there was that chicken salad sandwich accompanied by a large handful of Cape Cod Salt and Vinegar chips… Dammit, this healthy eating is just too hard.
I look fondly back to the days when one did not need an excel spreadsheet to keep track of what everyone eats. I remember wistfully the days of going round and round the rotary when family members ate what mom served, or they simply didn’t eat.
From now on, I think I’m simply going to serve scotch, good beer, organic hummus, and serve it up with some organic vegetables and organic blue corn chips. For the rest, everyone can simply bring their own.
Now, that’s what I call…a family meal?