Step Up to the (Dinner) Plate!

Here’s another one from my drafts folder, originally written in December 2009, and polished up a bit for you all today.  This one was almost totally done.  Why didn’t I press the button a year ago?  I haven’t the slightest idea.

Hey Cherie” is a column written by Cherie Bennett, who looks (from her picture), like she she’s probably in her 40s, and aimed at teenage readers. Sometimes the this-is-for-the-kids schtick feels a bit forced (for example, every letter starts with “Hey Cherie!,” which adds up to a lot of exclamation points early in the morning). For the most part, though, she does a decent job. She doesn’t tell kids to shut up and listen to their parents, or to just do whatever they want, but guides teens to respectfully, thoughtfully develop selves independent from–and sometimes even at odds with–their parents’ established worldview (and, of course, related rules).

Unfortunately, in this column, she missed the mark:

Hey, Cherie!

I have a problem with my mother’s cooking. She is a terrible cook. I didn’t know this when I was younger, but now that I am in high school, there is not a dish that my mother can’t ruin. Her roast beef tastes like leather, and she makes fish that tastes like newspaper soaked in water and then baked for five hours.

How can I tell her she is an awful cook and should start buying food from the takeout counter at the supermarket?

— Gagging

Hey, Gagging!

I want to know how you know what soaked and baked newspaper tastes like. But I digress.

This is a very tough problem, because telling your mother that she is a lousy cook is like telling a bride that she is ugly. Maybe you could buy her some cookbooks for her birthday and work with her to follow the recipes exactly. I’m grasping at overcooked roast beef here. Maybe this is your sign from On High to become a vegetarian?

Wait, so she didn’t give this person any help at all? Um….the answer here seems obvious to me: it’s time for this teen (henceforth T) to give cooking a shot T’sself–maybe once a week to start, and it needn’t be fancy. Sandwiches, soup, and salad or something.

This might solve what T perceives as the most immediate problem: getting a break from inedible food–that is, if T can in fact cook better than mom. Either way, it’s a win–T might be a natural, really enjoy cooking, and T & family would benefit from a variety of new, delicious meals.

Or T might be absolutely awful–and through the experiment might come to understand how much planning, effort, imagination, and hard work it takes to produce a tasty meal day after day, for an (unappreciative?) family.

Most likely T’s food will be edible, and improve over time, with practice.

Which brings us to the other problems this would solve–the ones T doesn’t seem at all aware of:

-T’ll give his mom a break from a task that, most likely, she doesn’t particularly enjoy or find very fulfilling

-T’ll learn….how to cook–a valuable skill by any standard.

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