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"TAKE MY KITCHEN -- PLEASE"

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By Beth Jones Shields

I have just gotten out of the movie “Julie & Julia,” and I’m walking on Cloud Nine, thinking about how lovely Julia Child was and how much she loved life and her husband and FOOD, and I’m visualizing myself in my kitchen, cooking the most wonderful Thanksgiving-esque dinner with roasted chicken and savory vegetables, served alongside creamy whipped potatoes and followed by a perfect pumpkin pie.  My loving family is so thankful to have Betty Crocker for a Mom, and we are all well fed, satiated, and happy.

As we pull into the driveway and I see my actual children, it hits me:  I HATE TO COOK.  Now, I haven’t always hated to cook.  Back when we were children, my sister Bonnie and I actually played “Julia Child,” mimicking that lilting wonderful accent of hers and pretending to be her while we whipped up an amazing batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies.  I spent several years where I did not cook at all, but then had a brief but accomplished period during college when I would host dinner for eight, using the most delightful place settings, placing everything just so, and serving what I imagined I might someday serve to what would surely be my Congressman husband when I got married.

Fast forward 18 years, and I am married to a wonderful consultant who speaks for a living (kind of like a Congressman?), and I have three lovely girls, 9, 11, and 13.  And at dinner time, I am most definitely NOT Betty Crocker -- more like Roseanne Barr, with wine.   We have issues, readers.   Continue on, if you dare.

My husband is a diabetic, which means no sugar for him.  My oldest is a “vegetarian” whose lips have seen nary a vegetable since she was three.  My middle child and youngest girls will eat a variety of dishes, a few notable vegetables (yes, broccoli), but no sauces with any discernable vegetables in them

When my first daughter was a toddler, I was dropping her off at the sitter five times a week and leaving a packet of pasta for her to have for lunch.  Little did I know that I was creating a child whose craving for carbs would rival that of any self-respecting frat boy.  By the time I realized my mistake, it was too late to back pedal, even though I gave it a valiant effort.  I had two more children by the time my oldest was four, and by then the mistake had been made.  I vowed not to make the same mistake twice, so I enforced fruit and vegetable consumption upon my two youngest.  It has not been pretty.

So taking into consideration all of the above, imagine dinner time at my house:  Stephen and I are eating some kind of protein, usually chicken, a few different vegetables, possibly a salad, and some kind of carbohydrate, maybe sweet potatoes with butter or a lovely side of grilled Italian bread.  My oldest has either made a peanut butter sandwich for herself, skipped dinner entirely, or I’ve cut up apples for her (peeled of course) and put a side of peanut butter out for her to dip.  My two youngest will eat the chicken while complaining that they don’t LIKE chicken like this (there is no “Mc” in front of it, I’m afraid), these vegetables are gross, and can we have hot dogs after this if we take four or five bites of it?  

Not to say that I am frustrated, angry, or bitter about it.  Well, maybe a little.  Then I remember the line from “Julia and Julie” which fits perfectly in regards to my pre-family images of a Betty Crocker future:  “The bitch lied.”  

Bon Appetit!