Kara Martin Snyder offers pragmatic health & lifestyle options for frazzled entrepreneurs with all heart and no bullsh*t. Take care of you as much as you take care of business.
Danielle writes: “I cook for two vegetarians, one who is lactose intolerant, two meat eaters, one who can’t eat soy. I’m a daily short order cook. It’s a struggle trying to incorporate ‘family dinner.’”
Thanks for sharing your question with me. Let me start by saying that you are so not alone. As food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances are on the rise, it’s a slippery slope from domestic goddess to, as you so aptly put it, short order cook trying to please a whole crowd and fast. Plus, that’s just one of your titles. Here are some ideas and questions to consider:
Start with the end in mind.
This is gem is from effectiveness guru, Stephen Covey. If I had to guess, the goal of the family dinner is to make sure everyone gets nourished every day and maybe some conversation. According to my homeboys, Merriam & Webster, nourish means to “to provide (someone or something) with food and other things that are needed to live, be healthy, etc.” Is this your goal? Or is it something else?
Boiling your data before boiling over.
Sounds like you have a wide range of dietary concerns you have to accommodate before you get into personal flavor and texture preferences, etc. Maybe it’s the former CPA in me, but I love data, especially when you need to troubleshoot a situation like this. While you can probably recite what everyone in the household eats or doesn’t eat already, there is something to be said for including them in the process. Here’s why:
- It’s a chance to let them know what a challenge meal times can be for you and your commitment to make sure everyone has something to eat that works for them. Your family might not even know you’re struggling. They may have helpful ideas, but hopefully, some patience and empathy.
- You’ll tip them off that there may be some mealtime changes coming down the pipeline as you try to figure this all out.
- You’re going to start to see some lowest common denominator (or “LCD”) ingredients shake out of everyone’s list of preferences and allergies. These will be all the foods everyone can eat without issue. Plus, you’ll gain have a sense of what’s most important to them, if you’re listening closely or outright ask.
Nigella or Nothing?
Once you have a solid idea of what those LCD ingredients are, let’s kick the tires on how much your own ego gets mixed in, too. With domestic goddesses like Martha and Nigella purveying their kitchen porn, it can be really easy to confuse family dinner with an artfully prepared work of culinary genius.
Remember starting with the end in mind? In order to feel like you’re accomplishing your goal most days, what’s your baseline definition of family dinner using your family’s LCD ingredients? What’s nice, but not necessary as a starting place? For example, when it’s hectic up in the Snyder household, a couple of veggie servings, a healthy fat (like nuts or an avocado), and a scoop of quinoa is a meal. My husband, Craig, might add a few shrimp from the freezer in minutes. Do I aim higher other days? Of course, I do. However, not every meal needs to be a masterpiece.
Pins and Wins
I’m constantly using Pinterest for kitchen inspiration and healthy resources for my clients, but do be careful not to fall down the rabbit hole. The timer that helps you not overcook a pot of rice will also help keep you on track. Challenge yourself to find one or two (not 102) recipes starring one of your family’s LCD foods and experiment with it. Even if you don’t self-describe, words like “allergen-friendly” or “vegan” may help cull down recipes that you can leverage. (You can always add, but can’t take away.) Keep track of those culinary wins, so you won’t have to always start from scratch. You may even find certain cookbook authors or bloggers that are facing the same challenges you are along the way.
You got this, Lady!
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