“It’s Your Night to Cook,” Ensign, Jan. 1987, 64–65
When the reply to “What’s for dinner?” came, invariably at least one of our six children would respond with, “Oh, yuck,” or “I’m not going to eat that!”
If one of our five boys wanted cookies, he would ask his only sister, who likes to cook, to bake some. But she was beginning to tire of it—and to feel more and more like Cinderella. The boys’ culinary interests never went much beyond popping popcorn or pouring milk on cold cereal. In short, they were kitchen klutzes and unappreciative consumers. As a result, I was losing my enthusiasm for cooking.
So, as a family, we devised a weekly cooking schedule, with each member of the family, including Dad, assigned a night to cook. Even our two youngest boys, who are only four and seven years old, have a night together to cook, with my help.
We plan meals on Sunday afternoons. Each cook lists his or her menu items so that I can purchase them the next day. The weekly menu is also posted on the refrigerator. The only restrictions we put upon the cooks are that the meal must be balanced and they can’t cook the same dinner two weeks in a row.
Our system has been in use for more than three years, and we have enjoyed a lot of delicious dinners as well as a few unusual ones. More important, our children are learning to cook. We will be able to send them off to college or on missions knowing that they can plan and prepare nutritious meals and follow recipes confidently.
The four older children can all prepare roasts, casseroles, most types of salads and vegetables, breads and rolls, cakes, cookies, and even some pies. The two youngest boys talk excitedly about “their night to cook,” and they know exactly what they want to fix each week. They do as much as possible themselves, such as grating cheese or making instant pudding. Their assistant, Mom, takes care of the actual cooking.
Since we began our cooking schedule, the complaints about dinner have all but disappeared, because everyone knows that his or her turn to cook is just a day or two away. The children now appreciate the effort that goes into meal preparation, and having Dad in the kitchen has eliminated the notion that food preparation is just “women’s work.” In fact, he really enjoys preparing new dishes and has become somewhat of a gourmet.
Having just one main meal to fix a week has also renewed my interest in cooking. I now look forward to preparing a special meal—as do all our other chefs.
I knew our family’s cooking plan was working well when seven-year-old Jeff came into the kitchen one afternoon and started to ask me what was for dinner. But then he stopped and said, “Oh, I forgot. It’s not your night. I’d better ask Scott.”—Janet Peterson, Sandy, Utah