“AAAAAAMY! DINNER’S READYYYYYYY!”
Mum calling you to the table for dinner at 7pm – no earlier, no later – might just be the most underrated sound in the world.
When you’re a busy teenager with a very busy life of MSN, sticking posters of Channing Tatum on the back of your wardrobe door and carefully placing your clothes all over the floor, being summoned for dinner every night sometimes felt like an inconvenience.
Gee, don’t they know I’m six minutes from finishing One Tree Hill season four? Ugh.
But as soon as you move away from home and start ‘adulting’, you realise just how much of a privilege that nightly meal was.
So much goes into getting dinner on the table that your 14-year-old self didn't always remember or appreciate. Budgeting, meal planning, grocery shopping, preparing, juggling different dietary requirements and tastes, cooking, setting aside leftovers for the family member that decided to bail on dinner at the last minute.
Oh, and figuring out how to make sure the whole family is happy and healthy. And, also, eat yourself. Yeah. A lot.
But watching mum cook dinner was such a comforting, familiar sight to come home to every day. As soon as I walked in the door, I could tell exactly what we would be having for dinner that night from the distinct (and delicious) fragrances that filled the house.
From Nona's own spaghetti and meatballs and her special crumbed veal cutlets, to her own Thai green curry recipe and, on Friday nights, chicken and chips (because everyone deserves at least one night off cooking a week), sitting down at the table to eat dinner together was something my parents insisted on - and I'm so grateful for that.
Now I live out of home, I thought I'd take a leaf out of mum's book and cook for my little family away from home, to show them the same generosity and love mum showed us.
And so the challenge of cooking a healthy,
edible yummy meal for my housemates, and some meal prep for the week, began.
It certainly wasn't as easy as mum's made it look all these years.
Step 1: Deciding what to cook
This may have been the most time consuming part of this whole exercise. How mum managed to come up with five very different and extremely delicious meal ideas every bloody week I may never understand. Anyway.
After many, many minutes of Googling, I settled on a red chicken curry. Also, I thought leftovers would be great for meal prep. Rather than making just enough for tonight, I could prepare a freaking massive pot of curry and have throughout the week.
Simple, quick and fresh. Foolproof, yeah? Yeah, no.
Step 2: The grocery shopping
Armed with a fairly simple shopping list, I entered the supermarket with confidence. I exited with less change from that $50 than I thought I would. As in no change. There was no change. Mainly because this recipe called for some exotic ingredients like lychees, fried shallots and fish sauce.
But that's OK. This dinner is about sharing the love and you can't put a price on love, right?
I also managed to spend almost an hour and a half at the supermarket wandering the aisles, comparing prices and picking out ingredients.
Yes, an hour and a half.
At this stage, we'll be eating dinner at midnight.
I should've done what these guys did - Home and Away's Johnny Ruffo and Lynne McGranger are my spirit animals of speedy meal prep - see their HelloFresh Dinner Diaries video:
Step 3: The actual cooking part
Chicken breast? Tick. Basmati rice? Tick. Everything one needs to make a delicious curry? Tick. Then came the bit where I had to cut everything up.
What felt like 20 hours into the cook (it wasn't, I promise), finally I heard the sweet, sweet sound of chicken sizzling in the pot on the stove.
After that, it was just a matter of throwing everything into the pot and hoping for the best.
Thank goodness I had the brainwave to pre-cook the rice in the rice cooker ahead of time rather than remembering at the last minute.
I also put some of this aside in a separate container for mid-week lunches. Storing it separately and then mixing up with the other ingredients the night before will keep it from being a soggy mess - or so mum told me when I rang her up for advice.
Around 40 minutes later, it was time to start serving. A lot of time was put into this stage because, Instagram.
I then arranged everything on our far too small coffee/dining table to be mercilessly judged by my loved ones.
Step 4: The verdict
I was quite pleased with the finished product, as were my housemates and partner. Because it was cooked for them, but also because it wasn't takeaway like we normally get.
We then sat down for our meal together - it was over in all of 15 minutes. After all that time and effort, it was done and dusted in less time than it took for the whole thing to cook. It was almost a little frustrating.
It was then, somewhere between forgetting the coconut milk and spilling curry paste down my shirt that I remembered something I should've told Mum a long time ago.
Even though I said thanks for dinner every night before rushing back off to my bedroom, what I want to tell Mum now is that I appreciate all the time and energy she invested in taking care of our family.
I'd also like to know how she did it. Every. Single. Night.
Because if it's not obvious enough from the above, I could use all the help I can get.
Now to start thinking about tomorrow night's dinner.
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How do you make your weeknight dinners happen? Or have you got any weekend meal prep tricks for when you have some more time on your hands? Share below!
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