Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ode to Eating Out

It's an odd thing - cooking.  I don't mind the actual process.  In fact, I often  quite enjoy it.  There's something satisfying about bringing a pile of raw ingredients together to create a (hopefully) delicious meal.  It's the planning that kills me.  Which is funny, because if you'd ask me if I'm more of a planner or more of a "fly by the seat of my pants" kind of girl, I'd definitely say I'm a planner.  But planning meals?  Not my strength.  It's ok.  I'm owning it.  And I'm trying to work on that.

In the meantime, my family eats out a lot.  We're getting better about this, because it turns out that eating in restaurants is a tad pricey.  But when I drag myself through the door at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday, and the kids are tired and crabby from daycare and my husband is 2 seconds away from losing his mind because the house is a mess and the dog won't stop pacing around and getting in the way....cooking a delicious meal seems about as possible as me losing 30 pounds overnight and getting into single-digit pants.

It's like a game between D and I.  We start by saying, "What do you want for dinner?"  And we run down the list of what's in the house.  It's a short list, and usually goes something like this:  Moldy leftovers from 3 weeks ago, chicken that was purchased an unknown number of months ago and is still frozen rock solid, the broken bits of a box of cereal, and not enough milk to use even if we had enough cereal for everyone.  It's times like this where I wonder, "Where the heck does that $150 go at the grocery store and why can't I get the hang of this 'responsible mother' thing?"

So after going down the list of options, it's like the first one to suggest eating out loses in some way.  Like you're giving up.  And also you're afraid to get shot down because you don't know what the other person is thinking.  Are they thinking they want to eat out too, or is this going to be one of those times where they're on a "we need to save money and eat healthier" kick and are going to shoot down the suggestion of eating out?  And then you got yourself all excited to eat out and are thinking where you want to go, and they're sitting there all pissy because they just want what's best for the family and you're sitting there sabotaging their efforts and you are the bad guy and they are the martyr who wants what's best for the family but is willing to sacrifice the best for the sake of compromise.  And you're sitting there thinking, "Sheesh, it's just a restaurant for crying out loud, not peace in the Middle East."

So then you go out to eat.  And you're happy and warm and excited at the reality of no cooking and the delicious food you're going to order, and you smile at the thought of enjoying a nice meal with your sweet family.

And then you get to the restaurant and are seated at your table.  And somehow your husband gets to sit by the older toddler who is quite content to play games on husband's cell phone, or do one of the puzzles you wisely put in your purse before leaving the house.  And you have to sit in the booth with the younger toddler who would rather walk through fire than sit still for any quantifiable amount of time.  And you begin to wonder why you wanted to eat out in the first place, but you resolve to enjoy it and pray that the waitress knows what it's like to have young kids and that she'll bring the bread and chocolate milk quickly so that Toddler 2 will switch from dumping salt all over the sugar packets to stuffing her face.

But the bread only occupies Toddler 2 briefly, and she quickly decides that the yummy, warm, soft bread is not as interesting as the disgusting floor under the table.  So you have to turn your attention away from said delicious bread and try to find things to occupy Toddler 2 so the crabby couple at the table next to you will stop giving you the stink eye.  You vacillate between embarrassment and indignation.  You desperately try to think of games that will entertain toddler.  Tiredness begins to creep in, and you start to wonder why you thought eating out was such a good idea.  You make a mental note to just order in next time.

Finally, the food arrives.  You and Husband resume your man-to-man defense, as he prepares Toddler 1's food (who is freaking pissed that he has to stop whatever he was doing to be forced to eat the food he didn't ask for and certainly doesn't want).  You cut up Toddler 2's food, who is still way more interested in the salt shaker than her food.  Being the ninja that she is, she senses your weakness and begins her defcon 5 op against whatever side dish came with her meal.  Fries, fruit, etc. are shoveled into her mouth at an alarming rate, and your day late and dollar short efforts to take away the side dish are met with ear splitting shrieks.  Normally you don't give in to these tantrums, but you're tired from a long day at work and from the mental beat down you're giving yourself for deciding to eat out.  So you give the stupid french fries back and decide you don't give a tiny rat's ass whether she eats her food, as long as you get a few minutes put together to try to enjoy your meal.

So you regroup and decide to make an effort to talk to your husband, in some semblance of having a nice family meal.  Husband is busy trying to coerce Toddler 1 to eat his food, and your attempts at drawing Toddler 1 out of his needlessly crabby mood are met with attitude.  Attitude is met with threats of punishment, and you pray to sweet baby Jesus that Toddler 1 doesn't push you to follow through on said threats, because you really, really don't want to take him to sit in the car while Husband pays the bill and boxes the food.  It's just not the same when you have to eat the food at home.

The small inklings of tired turn to fall on waves of exhaustion, and you notice that your waitress has chosen that inopportune time to disappear from the face of the earth.  You pray that the kids will keep it together just for a little bit longer.  You snap at your husband for no reason, because the anxiety and frustration is building inside you like a volcano, and since he is tired and frustrated too, he snaps back and now everyone hates everyone at the table and isn't this lovely.

Finally.  Finally.  The waitress brings the bill.  Husband pays and you box up the food so you can throw it away at home in a week.  You tiredly walk to the car, and make your way home to do baths.  You wearily look at the clock and count the minutes till bedtime.

You walk in the door, and decide that maybe it would be a good idea to take up cooking.