Some things ought to be sacred. Repeating home meals should be among them.
Raleigh News & Observer food writer Andrea Weigl recently wrote a column about a woman whose claim to fame is that she never cooks the same thing twice.
Her husband even brags about it. That’s how Weigl found out about her: the husband claimed his wife hadn’t cooked the same meal twice in nine years.
She’s a working mother with an art degree and a job at a museum. But with three kids under 8, she says she now channels her creativity into dinner.
That’s certainly admirable. With three small kids and a job, the fact that she’s cooking dinner instead of permanently parking a pizza delivery truck in the driveway is worthy of a medal.
And resisting the easy rut of “it’s Thursday – it’s chicken” might be a worthy feat.
So why did I find myself kind of sad at the thought of no-repeat menus?
Partly, it might be sympathy. As a food writer for more than 20 years, I envy people who have the luxury of making the same thing twice. There’s always something new I have to try, some research I have to do, some ingredient I need to test.
I once overheard my husband instructing our young son: “If you like it, you’d better tell Mom right away. Or you’ll never see it again.”
In our house, dishes are never guaranteed a second appearance unless they give me plenty of notice.
Besides that, though, I have to wonder if not repeating meals deprives your kids of important life lessons.
There’s a fortitude that comes from repeated family meals. Repetition builds both character and memories.
Would I be the tough woman I am today if I hadn’t had to fight against eating my mother’s fried chicken livers at least once a week for 18 years?
Finding new ways to hide them, avoid them or get myself invited to someone else’s house for dinner on liver night made me resourceful and observant.
Comparing notes with other kids on the number of times our mothers had recycled the pot roast that week was a bonding ritual.
What will the no-repeat mom’s children do when it’s time to sigh and remember how much they came to appreciate the reliability of knowing that no matter how tough the week had been, Friday would still be spaghetti night?
There’s also the sense of family identity and belonging that comes from knowing what you’re going to eat, no matter what.
The meal you make your kids because your mother made it for you is the meal that tells your kids, “This is who we are.”
If you never make the same thing twice, how will your kids grow up to know which one of your dishes they’d give anything to eat just one more time?