My older kids swear I cook better stuff now that they've moved out. "Why didn't you cook like this while we were living at home?" they ask, smacking their lips and sighing in lament.
Really, I hadn't noticed any difference in what I cooked or how I cooked it. Except, perhaps, for my new-found interest in Thai food. Where that came from, I have absolutely no idea except that I got curious one day at the supermarket and wandered down the international foods aisle just for the heck of it. There I discovered all kinds of cool new things, like rice noodles, sesame oil, hosein sauce, and chili paste. Back at home, I realized that my favorite soup cookbook had a number of delicious-looking and healthy Thai and Asian recipes in it. So, I gave it a whirl (accounting for our tender American tastebuds) and it worked.
Ok, and maybe I do remember to get the meat out to thaw in the morning or even occasionally the night before rather than 10 minutes before supper has to be ready like I used to.
Perhaps I do follow recipes a bit more closely now rather than making substitutions and taking shortcuts.
I do feel less intimidated by a recipe that has more than three steps, and I've even managed to (sometimes) get a rough idea of what I might want to cook ahead of time so that I can put the ingredients on the grocery list for the next week.
By golly, come to think of it, I do frequently feel as though I actually know what I'm doing when I'm in the kitchen. Why, at times I feel downright competent!
So, perhaps things are a bit different in the Fenelon Clan kitchen these days. But what's changed? I had think about that for a while. Two of our children are out of the house, two still are at home. It's still the same wonderful husband all these years. It's the same kitchen, same budget, same hectic schedule with activities and deadlines stuccattoing my days. Let's see ... Could it possibly be that my time in the kitchen is no longer divided between boiling pots, loaded diapers, gagging dogs and wash machine buzzers?
I remember days when I didn't have time to make an ingredient-generated grocery list. I was so sleep-deprived, I couldn't possibly think that far ahead. Read a recipe? Are you kidding? With one on the hip, one pulling at my sleeve and my head twisting this way and that trying to keep an eye on the other two, I couldn't concentrate long enough to get past step one. New foods were out of the question. In those days I was lucky if I could boil a pot of macaroni and throw some ketchup over it. “Insty-ghetti,” we used to call it. Ha. The kids thought Mom had made up a special dish just for them. Little did they know...
Needless to say, my life may not be calmer these days, but it is more focus-able. I haven't changed a diaper in a way-long time, nobody really pulls at my sleeve anymore unless it's the dog and she wants to play. I have only one to keep an eye on, and as a high-schooler he's becoming more and more active and is around less and less. So, I can pay more attention to nit-picky things like recipes and fancy dishes.
Of course, I don't consider that anything to brag about. I know some moms who do have a passel of kids at home and still manage to put wonderful, enticing meals on the table. I know some moms who have done it in the past with far more than just four kids. I know some moms who would love to drum up exciting cuisine but health or handicap prevents them. And, there still are days when things have gotten so out of hand that I declare "Sandwich Night" and we get out the bread, meat, and cheese and throw some veggies on top to make it more healthy.
To be very honest, those "Sandwich Nights" make me miss the good old days when all the kids were at home and I was feeling frazzled, frenzied, but oh-so in love with my family. We all need to be needed, and there's something about being a woman-in-high-demand (alias, Mom), that speaks of mission and fulfillment. Sure, I can put a little more finesse into my meals these days. But it's done with a twinge of melancholy as I remember the days when I couldn't get past step one.