Good god, have we gotten ourselves backed into a corner when it comes to feeding our families, getting dinner on the table, fighting the good fight. Open the paper, turn on the news, and there’s another scary missive about pink slime or childhood obesity or pesticides. It’s enough to make you want to curl up under the bed and hurl a takeout menu at your family. “I can’t possibly do all of this right,” we think. “Maybe I shouldn’t even bother.”

As Mother’s Day drew nearer, here’s what I was thinking.  Let’s stop acting as though life isn’t extremely messy and complicated. Let’s stop beating ourselves up. Let’s try and imagine that just because we’re not going to cook a homemade dinner from scratch every night, it’s not worth doing it a couple of nights a week. Let’s not hold ourselves to impossible standards, believing that if we don’t do all of our shopping at organic farmers’ markets, calling each purveyor by name, and discussing the quality of the soil, we should hang our heads in shame and let the food police haul us off to a place where bad mothers go. This isn’t really a resolution (’cause we all know how those things usually turn out), but more of a Mother’s Day gift to ourselves.

Guess what I did the other night? After a full day of work, I spent the dinner hour on the phone being interviewed on the radio about the importance of cooking for our kids and families, and then I ORDERED A PIZZA! Because I wanted to take my kids to a dance performance at their school. And the pizza was great, and the dance performance was better, and I have another chance to make dinner tonight.

When I thought about writing The Mom 100 Cookbook, the simple concept was to create 100 recipes that every mom needs to have in her back pocket. Recipes to answer those everyday dilemmas like “there’s a bake sale tomorrow, and you signed me up to make what?” and “I need to get out of my chicken rut,” and that evergreen crowd pleaser, “I’m going to find a way to make my kids eat their damn fish.” Twenty dilemmas, five recipe solutions for each quandary, some gorgeous photography, and the main part of the book was done.

But it turns out that just as important as the recipes is the need for us to feel enthusiastic about cooking, empowered in the kitchen. We want to face the dinner hour with a little more joie de vivre than we feel when it’s time for a dental cleaning. Because we get to feed our kids every day–every day! So this book is full of tips for making things easier, getting the kids into the kitchen, preparing as much as possible ahead of time, and other thoughts about making cooking just plain old more fun.

Even the small wins feel great. Make a dish you know your family will like. Ask your kids to pick out a recipe or two for the coming week. Make a double batch of something, and freeze half. Make homemade brownies. Take a look in your pantry, and make a list of what you need to stock up on, so those rushed weeknights go a little more smoothly. Pick one new chicken (or beef or pasta) recipe, and ask the kids to help. On a Sunday evening, chop up some garlic and onions and tuck them into containers in your fridge, so later in the week when you come home and look at your recipe, the phrase, “mince two cloves of garlic,” doesn’t bring you to your knees. You’ve already minced the garlic! Allow your future self to thank your past self graciously for being so thoughtful.

There never seems to be enough time to do everything we want to do, the way we’d like to do it. But when we’ve gotten to a place where getting dinner on the table seems way too daunting, it’s time to tell the food police to pack up their thesis about the care and propagation of endangered heirloom potatoes and play somewhere else. We have dinner to make.

Originally published on Omnivoracious.

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