Prev Next
I Have Teenagers, Therefore I Cook

I Have Teenagers, Therefore I Cook

By Mir Kamin

“Ugh, I have nothing to write about,” I whined to my husband this morning. “Damn kids, having their own lives and privacy and stuff.”

This is an ongoing joke between us. Just a little blogger humor! “Hey, remember when the most awful thing the kids did was sneak candy? And I could write about it and no one would think we were terrible parents? Remember that??” (Hooboy, we’re a laugh-riot ’round here.)

In my writing about my children, I find myself writing less and less about my actual children. There’s lots of reasons for that, but central among them the fact that their childhood is—whether I like it or not—nearly over. Being a teenager is hard enough without Mom blabbing. And my particular teenagers have their own set of challenges making their lives even harder. I never want to be the reason things are more difficult for them.

“You should write about your terrible husband and how he never cooks,” joked my husband. It’s worth noting that this conversation was happening at 6:30 this morning, pre-coffee, as I was sautéing onions. (No, I don’t always get up and cook a bunch of onions. Tonight’s a crock pot night and I was assembling ingredients for the crock so that we can have dinner later, even if the day rises up and attacks me, which—more and more often—seems to be the norm.)

I laughed. “I don’t mind cooking,” I said. “And you’re not terrible,” I added, lest there was any doubt. Honestly, I think my husband is a saint. And if I ask him to cook, he does (and well). But I work from home, I do the grocery shopping, I’m the one who produced two somewhat finicky eaters… it makes more sense for me to be the “main” cook in the household.

Cooking has always been something I’ve enjoyed, but more and more I’m realizing it’s become something of a daily meditation for me. Let’s be clear: I’m not a stupendous cook. I’m a decent cook. Some of my creations are amazing and some are duds. Most are good but unremarkable. I harbor no illusions about my culinary expertise. What I do have is a decent set of skills and understanding about what flavors work together. What is becoming clear to me is that I find the process of meal preparation deeply satisfying in a way that almost nothing else in my current life can rival.

Think about it: I start with… nothing, usually. Sometimes we have a weekly meal plan, but most days (like today) the weekend chewed me up and spit me out and I never even went for groceries (unless we’re counting the frenzied 5-minute dash through the grocery store at 7:00 last night for milk, bread, and bananas). So there was no plan. I was up before everyone else, putting away clean dishes, thinking about what I could put in the crock pot. A bit of poking in the fridge and pantry, a quick run out to the garage freezer… then I headed to Google to find a recipe. By the time the rest of the family was stirring, I was caramelizing onions and I had A Plan. I chopped, I stirred, I seasoned. By the time everyone headed out to school and work, dinner was just about made; I’ll pull it out of the crock tonight when everyone gets home. It’s nothing I’ve made before, but I think it’ll be good. We’ll see.

And don’t get me wrong, either—when I packed up leftovers for the kids’ lunches today, my daughter got a 100% homemade meal: a thermos full of black rice and red lentil coconut curry, plus garlicky naan; but my son got… the last few slices of a (delivery) pizza. I’m not some 100% organic “feeding my children is like watering the earth with fuel for a better world” food snob. Sometimes food is just food.

But when I spend time in the kitchen making a meal, I feel productive. I feel calm. I feel sure of myself and my abilities and I look forward to the end result. I can be a little creative, but I can also rely on certain rules. I can stop and taste and adjust. And on the rare occasions when it really all goes sideways—the overcooked entree or the bomb of a recipe—well, the world doesn’t end. We throw it away and eat something else. Sometimes we even get a good family joke out of it. (The day my now-husband proposed to me, as I was having a harried meltdown in my kitchen, I burned dinner to a crisp. I feel like that was reasonable under the circumstances.)

The older my children get, the less predictable I find them to be. The older they are, the less sure I feel that I am doing right by them, or having the effect I hope I’m having, or that I am able to shield them from the world’s harsh realities or prepare them to face them on their own. My career is one I feel very lucky to have, but there’s no “oops, dinner’s burned, oh well!” equivalent—either I get things done, and done well, or I may no longer have a job. And my saint of a husband, well, romance ’round here often looks like, “Shall we watch something stupid on television before we fall into bed exhausted or should we just go to sleep right now?”

I’m not complaining, not really. My life is both terrible and wonderful, and more of the latter than the former. I wish for more control over… everything, really, and that’s just not how it works.

In my kitchen, I have that control I crave. I start with simple ingredients, I decide on a course of action, and I make it happen. I am rewarded at the end with a yummy meal (usually). Sometimes I even get compliments from my family. I create something predictable and good. It doesn’t take a huge amount of brain power or concentration, and I can do it even if my mood isn’t stellar (in fact, it almost always improves my mood). I feel a sense of accomplishment when I’m done.

If only I could figure out how to put my teenagers into my crock pot.

Mir Kamin
About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

icon icon
chat bubble icon

Comments

  • Kate

    FYI you can caramelize onions in the crock pot. I do about 5 lbs at a time and then freeze them in 1 cup portions (which is roughly eqivalent to 1 medium onion). 

  • Mmmm… stewed teenagers. My favorite!

    • And then add broth an hour before dinner and you have awesome French Onion Soup. (Add some sherry and some thyme, but that’s basically it.)

  • Ah, you must add Michael Pollan’s newest book, Cooked, to your to-read list. You’ll enjoy it, I’m sure.

    And, I just bought a heaping huge bag of lentils at Costco and I need more than the two recipes I have: soup and tacos. Can you share?

  • df

    Oh my, can I ever relate to this piece, Mir! I feel like I could have written it, too, but don’t know that I could have. Life is so complex and busy and unpredictable (well, it’s always been unpredictable), and I think the kitchen is a safe haven. There are odd days when I can’t face cooking, but mostly it’s also a meditative space for me, and I don’t demand that my kids cook more (though both can, and one’s a pretty great baker) because I like having that time to myself. Thanks for a great read and the sense of permission that it gave me to enjoy my space in the kitchen that little bit more.

  • nora1

    i agree … i find it soothing and reassuring to cook, and gratifying when things do turn out tasting good. however, massive kudos to you for getting your cooking mojo flowing at 6.30am! emergency cake-baking aside i don’t think that’s ever happened here! i admire your organisation!

  • Chris

    “If only I could figure out how to put my teenagers into my crock pot” – Love this!

    I was thinking I could share this with my teenagers but they would likely 1) be more offended than amused and 2) call out that I don’t normally cook dinner so this doesn’t apply.

    While true, we were talking about cookie baking and having our au pair try to make something special for my eldest next week and when the suggestions was chocolate chip cookies (a special recipe of mine gf but you wouldn’t know it) I said – “She can’t make that – it my job to make those cookies”  While the dinner can be a nightly pain, there is something about providing for your family, even if it is only home-made baked goods in my case, that is rewarding.

    As an aside, I have fully gotten the au pair on board with the slow cooker is the best invention ever!