When the Cook Quits

10.14.11 Dinner doesn't always happen


Let’s face it, most of us are surrounded by reasons not to cook. There’s a formula, in fact: the number of pizzerias that deliver to you times the number of foods someone in your family doesn’t like divided by the hours of sleep you got last night plus the number of minutes you have to produce a meal equals the percentage of nights that you’ll throw in the dish towel and call off cooking dinner. Or something.

Today’s a gray, drizzly sort of day, we’re low on groceries and I’m low on energy. Tonight, Aaron will be out and Leo and I are hosting a 16-year-old who we’re hoping will be a good fit for occasional afternoon and evening babysitting. And, dammit, I’m ordering a pizza. I will muster the will to produce a romaine salad and some sliced cucumbers, but yeah. That’s all folks. And you know what? Leo will be thrilled.

Here are a bunch of other cop-outs that I keep in mind for nights like tonight:

Rotisserie chicken, rice and beans and an avocado salad from the Peruvian joint

Hot dogs, sweet potato fries and broccoli, all from the freezer

Scrambled eggs with ketchup. Yup.

Sandwich night.

Noodles with cottage cheese and peas.

Canned chicken soup and steamed edamame.

Frozen tortellini and steamed cauliflower.

Tapas: sliced cheese, salami, olives, figs, pears, carrots, peppers and cukes.

I have fond memories of nights spent alone on the couch with a big bowl of cereal back in my single days, but somehow, having a growing boy to feed, cereal for dinner seems verboten. May it be many years before it occurs to Leo that he can just eat Crispix and call it a night. And may it always be true that cop-out nights feel exciting and special to him because they are so rare.

What do you do when the cook quits?

Zoe Singer is a freelance food writer and cookbook editor and co-author of The Flexitarian Table. Food Editor and blogger for The Faster Times, she tries not to eat for two now that her son is a toddler.