It’s probably no surprise to learn the American middle-class has been on steady decline for the past 20+ years. According to Pew Research studies1 that coupled with recent recessions and consistent shift to two income households for married and blended family households dads (single or not) have to now consider what to make for dinner more than past generations.
Thanks to YouTube and the Food Network, moms and dads have a lot of inspiring chefs to follow. Apps abound to help you pull together healthy dishes no matter what your challenge. You only have 20 minutes and you’re vegetarian and need to make something, there’s a solution for that.2 You only have three ingredients to work with and nothing is coming to mind? Download Yummly and see what kind of dishes it returns, I am always pleasantly surprised. Even if someone in your family has a food allergy most apps have search filters to accommodate them.
Having three growing boys, most of my time is in the kitchen. I have certain days when my food prep and clean-ups rolls from one meal, right into another. Most of the time, I am okay with it and others I simply proclaim to the house in a booming official sounding tone, “the kitchen is now CLOSED!”
During the school year, it’s all good because the boys set up to do homework at the kitchen table and I can connect with them, help them with their homework and then rope them into food prep and clean up. A trick I borrowed from my mother, I snack them with fresh cut vegetables (ex. edamame, carrots with hummus, etc.) while they’re doing homework to ensure they get that in their diet and also helps me fill them up a bit since they can clear my fridge in a couple days.
Like most parenting things it takes planning. Another thing borrowed from my upbringing, building a set menu plan. Similar to the school cafeteria, I sit down with the boys and sketch out what we’re having for meals a week or two in advance. They all get on the same page and I can quickly build a shopping list and avoid last minute scrambles.
Even when they were youngsters, they’re tweens and teens now, I’d hold them while stirring sauce, or give them a stool so they could help me. I feel this generation more than ever needs a tighter relationship with cooking, healthy living and staying clear of eating junk. For me, that means sharing my enthusiasm about the art and science of cooking. Getting one or two of them to build a salad for dinner has an interesting benefit, they eat it.
Speaking as a co-parenting dad my personal focus is on building good memories with my kids, providing valuable life skills, educating them on proper diet and (hopefully) developing one or two loved family dishes along the way.
Speaking of benefits of making home cooked meals, consider these;
- Quality time, bonding time and family ritual
- Teaching them valuable life skills (personal [time] management, nutrition and diet, cooking and clean)
- Saving money!
I realize we all do not have time to make three-course meals but it is an important reminder to know there are some clear benefits for dads to figure out some dishes to make for their kids, perhaps with their kids and build some memories along the way.