EAT, WRITE, DIGEST: The Tuesday Night Dinner Project
Welcome to the latest venture for One Minnesota Writer: EAT, WRITE, DIGEST: The Tuesday Night Dinner Project.
Tuesday is an overlooked day. At least, I’ve long thought so. Tuesday afternoon may have gotten its due in the old Moody Blues song of that same name, but Tuesdays don’t incite a sense of excitement the way Friday or Saturday does, a sense of peace like Sunday, or the dread that Monday is known for. It’s not a hump day like Wednesday or an almost-to-the-weekend day like Thursday. No, Tuesday is the most ordinary of weekdays, humble, not flashy, quiet. It’s the perfect day for a regular family dinner.
It’s also the perfect day to digest new ideas.
We are a nation of people in a hurry. Never mind that there’s a whole movement out there that encourages mindfulness, being in the moment, not going through the drive-through at McDonald’s for dinner. Have you ever tried to slow down in, say, the grocery store at 5 p.m. on a weekday? Way to get your ankles smacked with a shopping cart. Or how about waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles over your lunch hour? Now there’s a place where you can’t change how long it’s going to take to get your license tabs, but people complain as if that’s going to make a difference. Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up.
I’m not that much different than anyone else. I’ve been in a hurry for forever and it’s made me less aware of what’s around me. It’s made me grouchy. It’s helped make me forgetful. Grouchy forgetfulness is terrible for sustaining relationships and it’s not so hot for the writing career either. Being in a hurry has also contributed to the times I’ve thrown out my back or slipped in the shower or sliced my finger instead of the onion on the cutting board.
Back around Christmastime, I was chatting with my son, Shawn, and daughter-in-law, Beka, about taking care of their toddler-aged daughter Camille on Tuesdays. I’d already been doing that for a while and it seemed like a natural thing to add on dinner. I like to cook. Camille likes to pour stuff into bowls and stir things. What she doesn’t like to do is hurry. She doesn’t like to get her coat on when Beka comes to pick her up on Tuesday afternoons. She would much prefer a different pace. If I made dinner for the family on Tuesdays, there might be an easier transition at the end of the day and everyone might feel cared for. No one would have to hurry for anything.
And so it was agreed. On Tuesday nights we would all sit around the dining room table and share our day’s stories, surround Camille with food and love, and give ourselves a break.
January and February (so far) have been colder than hell in Minnesota. School closings have messed up our Tuesday schedule a couple of times (Beka works in a St. Paul charter school – if she doesn’t go to work, I don’t watch Camille). We did manage to kick off our Tuesday night dinners eventually, though. Camille does not yet understand time very well; to say that dinner is going to be “soon” means nothing to her. She asks her gramps (my husband Mick) for snacks as soon as he comes home from work. She scans the kitchen counter for candy. She says things like, “I need a snack. I need a banana. I need Froot Loops. I need some milk.” We give her little bites then distract her with something else. I haven’t yet figured out the rhythm of finding things she can consistently help with during dinner preparation, but that will come.
This past Tuesday, I cooked a vegetarian stew that was just right for a Minnesota winter night. Beka peeled vegetables. I chopped, stirred. Mick and Shawn popped open some beer, sniffed the aromas that wafted from the kitchen. Camille ran among us all and said, “I need pretzels”. We listened to Shawn talk about his work as an artist and his job as a security guard, two oppositional pieces of his life that are sometimes hard to keep in juxtaposition.
Later, when we were all at the table together, we laughed at the face Camille made when she tasted an oil-cured black olive that was in the stew. Camille tries a lot of different foods and I am always impressed at her willingness to taste whatever is in front of her. Maybe Camille will retain this willingness to taste new things, in spite of those black olives.
And isn’t that what we want for our kids and ourselves? That willingness to try what is in front of us? Camille reminds me of this every day. Sometimes, she also reminds me to dance in the living room.
I was born on a Tuesday. The theory from the old nursery rhyme is that I’m full of grace. May that be so. And may you come back as this column about the Tuesday Night Dinner Project gets going. Join me next Wednesday (I have do the cooking on Tuesday, right?) to see what develops.
Eat. Write. Digest.