What's For Dinner?

When I met Andy in graduate school his diet consisted of Hot Pockets and Coke. His weekly routine involved going to class, studying, going to the bar, smoking butts and talking on his cell phone.

That time for me was one of particular neurosis. Like many twenty-somethings, I had no idea what to do with my life or how to get there. My lack of control over most things led to control issues over the small stuff. Therefore, my diet consisted of sugar-free hot chocolate, salad and too much alcohol. My weekly routine included going to class, studying, running and stressing out.

We were two polar opposites, of course attracted to one another because of our differences. A decade later and over time our extreme behaviors softened. With my support Andy stopped smoking (ok- I threatened him), switched to drinking Diet Coke and has added new foods to his diet, including a limited amount of fruit and veggies and also a glass of water or two a day.

Thanks to Andy, I have stopped obsessing about what I look like and have learned that a piece of cake once in a while isn't going to hurt me. We opt for a sweet dessert most weekends now since one drink on a Saturday night equals a hang-over on Sunday morning.

Our behaviors now generally complement one another and we've grown to be more alike over time. But, if you know us, you are aware that we still disagree about many, many things and diet and exercise are both big points of contention.

Andy neglects breakfast at home every day and secretly stops at Mickey D's for a hash brown several times a week. Thanks to him, Caroline refers to the supermarket as the "donut store". Strangely, he has a vegetable garden he grows mostly pumpkins. Our joke is that he is waiting for scientists to develop a Lean Cuisine seed.
His dinner choices are Digiorno's pizza or frozen french fries and chicken fingers.

Now, I'm a terrible cook. I've served Pepper Pasta (aka pasta served with a butt load of pepper and nothing else),raw pancakes and cheesecake soup. My culinary skills, or lack thereof, have neither helped Andy nor the kids to develop sensible diet choices.

I do try very hard and I have the best of intentions. I collect lots of interesting, family- friendly recipes and spend oodles of cash on ingredients. I'd never invite anyone over to sample my cooking but I like to think I'm at least capable of making something nutritious and swallowable for my family.

For better or for worse, I'm generally the one who cooks every evening. I decide what we are going to eat and everybody eats it. It is only when I'm too tired or particularly irritable that Andy steps in at the stove. Last night was one of those occasions. Andy decided to make spaghetti and meatballs a simple enough meal, especially since he simply need to cook the pasta, defrost the meatballs and heat the jar of sauce. All was well until, in a moment of panic, Andy determined we were out of pasta sauce. After helping him search all of the cabinets and the fridge, it was confirmed. In mommy-lecture style I suggested that, during future meal preparation times, he take all of the needed ingredients and place them on the counter, to ensure he had what he needed and for quick access during the cooking process. Obviously annoyed at me for my advice and for not having purchased enough sauce, he stomped around the house in search of his keys and, while his water boiled and meatballs warmed, announced he was going to the corner store to buy sauce.

I told him there was no need and that I could make, yes make, pasta sauce with ingredients in our very own kithcen. In shock and disgust he told me he'd never eat a sauce I made from scratch and off he went.

With one child clutching my leg and the other dumping milk into a plant, I assembled tomato sauce, paste, olive oil, salt, pepper, onions, garlic and a little red wine, dumped it all in a pot and voila! Andy walked in just in time to see me spooning my sauce onto the pasta-filled plates. He let out a man shriek: "I am not going to eat THAT! I'm throwing it away!"

Like our children, I encouraged him to at least try it before throwing it away. Oh let's be honest, I bitchily told him to shut the f-up and eat it or toss it, I could care less. He gave in with a slight compromise- he added his jar sauce to the meatballs, and we all sat down at the table to eat. Both kids gobbled up their pasta happily. Maybe it was the red wine that made them smile. In his own way, Andy even complimented me when he told me, "This sauce actually has a taste. Most sauces are so bland."

Tonight, I made three-bean salad and he had seconds-even if he did wash it down with a Diet Coke and a donut.

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