Gimme a smile: What's for supper?

“What’s for supper?” These three words strike fear into the hearts of moms everywhere. There’s no right answer. Here are some possibilities, each fraught with its own pitfalls:

1) Indecision: “I don’t know, what do you suggest?” Bad idea. Never let the kids know that you don’t have a plan. They’ll sense weakness and take full advantage of it. Typically they’ll suggest something like McDonald’s or ordering pizza. Spinach and broccoli, not so much. I have yet to hear them offer to make dinner themselves, but one can always hope.

2) Democracy: “Which do you want, macaroni and cheese or ramen noodles?” I’ll never learn. I have three kids. I don’t know why I continue to ask all three to choose between two options. It’s never unanimous, and then I have to make the decision of who gets left out. Majority rule is a drag when there are only three people. It’s even worse if there are three options — then each one will choose something different. Far better for me to just pick the menu, even if that leads to three kids complaining about my choice.

3) Passing the buck: “We’re going out to eat — where do you want to go?” Same problem as the above, except it costs more, and the sulking takes place in public.

4) Reverse psychology: “We’re having liver and onions with okra on the side.” Think of the nastiest food imaginable — in our house it’s called “prume.” I’ve never seen or served prume, although the leftover haggis combined with mashed potatoes that I once tried to pass off as shepherd’s pie comes as close as you can get. If I tell the kids we’re having “prume” for dinner, they won’t feel so bad when they sit down to tuna noodle casserole instead. But kids are smart, so you won’t get away with this one for long.

5) Heading them off at the pass: “You’ll see. Go wash your hands and set the table.” After a few times of essentially asking to do a chore that they could have gotten out of, the kids will stop asking what’s for supper altogether.

Of course, your best bet is to have an answer to the question before the kids even ask you. My fallback answer to the question, “what’s for supper” is “chicken.” We eat a lot of chicken in our house. It’s such a versatile food. It comes frozen, canned, in a variety of cuts, or you can cook the whole bird. You can stew it, fry it, roast it, cook the bones into soup, or boil it and disguise it with an endless array of sauces. Best of all, it tastes like . . . chicken.

In a perfect world, I would know what’s for supper every time someone asked me. I tried once, I really did. I bought a cool kitchen planner that has a spot for each day of the week, with a shopping list attached. The theory is that you plan your meals for the entire week and write the ingredients on the shopping list so you only have to make one trip to the store. What a concept! If grocery stores had frequent flyer clubs, I’d be a charter member. Sometimes I make two trips in one day, and that’s not even counting the times that I load the groceries into my car only to remember the main thing that I came to the store for in the first place. It only counts as a second trip if you actually drive out of the parking lot.

I tried this plan-ahead method for about a week, and it totally took the pressure off. When I woke up in the morning, I knew what was for supper that evening, and I knew I had all the right ingredients. I also found that I was making more interesting meals, rather than recycling the same tired recipes. Instead of chicken and rice, or rice with chicken, I might make Indian chicken, or zesty oregano chicken from Greece. But, like New Year’s resolutions, the cool kitchen planner didn’t last, and I’m back to asking myself, “what’s for supper” on a daily basis. My best guess? Chicken.

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