The meal that was two weeks in the making

Today I entered a level of cooking prep that I hadn’t gone to before. Understanding that I regularly cook for big groups of people (thanks extended family) and I cook daily for a fussy vegetarian (myself) , a carb–avoiding man (my husband) and a growing teenager (my son) , I am well versed with cooking prep.

But today was different. I was cooking for a family who have had some difficult times lately. Someone at Little Pencil’s school has put a roster together for people who want to help to prepare a meal to ensure there is one thing less to worry about for a while.

The roster was a very well organised, online schedule where you could choose the date that suited you best and then insert the meal you would be providing with your name next to that date.

I chose my date about two weeks ago and spent about an hour worrying that everyone already knew what they would be cooking in two or three weeks while I didn’t even know what I was cooking for my family that night, let alone whether I would still be able to cook in two weeks time (remember that I am a neurotic and I often worry about future dates lest I am dead for them).

Eventually I settled on a TBC (to be confirmed) rationalising to myself that something brilliant would come to me while I waited.

My meal was due today and nothing had come to me except buying a store-made lasagne. But I couldn’t do that because it is not martyrish enough.

I looked through the meals that everyone else was making and realised they had stolen all my ideas. Which is blatantly untrue because there was no store made lasagne on the list.

The meal obviously had to be pre-prepared to a point so anything too exotic was off the table. My husband suggested I make spaghetti bolognaise “because you make the best bolognaise in the world” but I had to explain that everyone thinks their wife/mother/son/partner makes the best bolognaise in the world. (The same is true for chicken soup).

Then he suggested a chicken curry which I had made the other day. “It was phenomenal” he said. I remembered that it was easy to prepare and was momentarily buoyed until I thought back to the list that listed about 30 different variations of chicken – from schnitzel to roast and back again to stew and stir fry.

I decided it needed to be meat and it needed to be warm and comforting because it’s pouring today. It also needed to be eaten with mashed potatoes because I am now very good at making mashed potatoes (the benefit of writing that you couldn’t make mashed potatoes in the Thermomix is that everyone teaches you the “secret”*)

I hauled out a slow-cooker recipe book, found a recipe for honey-soy lamb and sprinted off to the shops so that I would have six hours of cooking time before delivery Stop me here and ask me what kind of person makes a dish they have never made before for a family that they don’t really know that well and who need and deserve good food?

My meal is about to be delivered. It is tiny pieces of disintegrated meat and lots of bone in a sauce I cannot taste because I am a vegetarian. It smells however like it lacks flavour. I don’t really have a suitable container for it (all containers need to be disposable so no returning of dishes is required) and so I spread the tiny bits of meat in a container that is way too big making it look endlessly less appealing.

meal stress


The mashed potato has developed that lovely potatoey film you get when you leave it for too long because I didn’t want to put hot food in a plastic container (I mentioned I am neurotic before). I also made peas where made means nothing because nature did the pea-making but I boiled them too long.

On the plus side I bought a very nice looking pre-made rhubarb and apple crumble. I strongly recommend they skip straight to dessert.

The worst part of the whole story is that I have completely forgotten that I have to cook for my own family tonight so I think they may get store-bought lasagne. I am over being a martyr.

When do you decide what to cook for dinner each night?

*The secret is to cut the potatoes small before you cook them.

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  1. Lana

    I just wanted to say that on behalf of a family who has received two meals a week for the better part of 6mths from our local school community, absolutely anything that you make and deliver will be a blessing. Never underestimate the impact that what is a small gesture (though you did seriously over think it! – but that is something I would do too, so it’s good to know I have company!) for you to make a meal (sadly at the expense of your own family lol, beans on toast surely covers everyone in your family?) will have for that family. To know that there are people in their school community who care enough to want to help really makes a difference. Our school was in fact quite cranky with us when we said we wanted to stop, because there was a list of about 50 other families who wanted to do meals for us but hadn’t had the opportunity to.

    When things are tough it is really hard to reach out and think of ways that people can help. Having a meal that you don’t need to think about is really awesome.

    So on behalf of that family I am thanking you for your generous spirit to want to help out. If you do it again, some other ideas are fried rice, cottage pie, marinated chicken wings with rice, butter chicken with rice, potato curry, beef stroganoff, anything with pasta.

    love and hugs
    Cathy xoxo

  2. I decide what to cook each morning as I have to take some meat out to defrost during the day (no vegetarians here). I have been known to change my mind by the time I get home from work. Often a conversation about dinner goes like this:

    “I took some chicken fillets out”
    “What should I make with them?”
    “I don’t know”
    “That’s very helpful”
    “I know!”

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