Wealthy Americans in particular buy Viking stoves hoping that the right machine will make them want to cook, failing to recognize (or admit) that it is not the technology they lack but the will. By spending so much money on machines, they seek to buy domestic happiness on the cheap. And the makers of these machines ingeniously appeal to this longing, evoking both nostalgia for a lost era of domesticity and the dream of automating all our domestic labors.My darling wife and I have made it a serious goal to always eat meals as a family at the table with the television off. Even with the two bambinos, we have been moderately successful in our efforts. I'm bringing this up not to brag or anything, but because I would love to hear tips from people (especially when it comes to cleaning). What has worked for you?
Of course, neither cultural nostalgia nor technological progress can restore the domestic tranquility we feel we have lost. What is necessary is a sober defense of the worth of domestic life, including those labors—chopping vegetables, sweeping a floor, setting a table—that are hardly glorious in themselves but essential parts of the domestic satisfactions we still seem to want. “As people turn more and more to outside institutions to have their needs met (for food, comfort, clean laundry, relaxation, entertainment, society, rest),” writes Mendelson, “domestic skills and expectations further diminish, in turn decreasing the chance that people’s homes can satisfy their needs. The result is far too many people who long for home even though they seem to have one.”
Here's what we do when we are most successful (with meals):
1. The layout of our house helps. The tv is downstairs and cannot be seen from the kitchen. I have no willpower when it comes to tv, so it makes a huge difference when the evil temptation is gone. If you can arrange it, make it so.So how about it? Anyone have any advice?
2. I am finding that Tivo is great for family time. If I want to watch a show that comes on before the kids go to bed, I just record and watch later. I don't think this aspect of digital video recorders can be emphasized enough. Plus you can record Kill Bill for your two-year olds.
3. Planning:a. Make a list of meals for the week. Use your fancy cookbooks and gourmet magazines and come up with what you are going to eat every day. When we don't make a list, it is amazing how much time we waste trying to figure out what we have and what we want to eat on any given night.4. Shake your children.
b. Make a shopping list based on the meal list. Get everything you need at the grocery store for the week in one trip. Very useful, and it saves money.
c. Have the meat thawed and other stuff ready to go when you prepare the meal. I work full-time now, but I can cook a lot of meals when I get home because everything is ready to go. If you don't eat meat, or are just a general ninny like Stephen, I guess you have to do something to prepare your tofu or bean curd or tree bark or chunks of concrete in advance. I wouldn't know.
5. Clean dishes as you cook. It saves a ton of time at the end of the meal. Plus it stops idiots like me from fiddling around with food that needs to be cooking.
Which reminds me, Rosen neglected to mention the greatest practical invention of the last fifteen years: the sponges attached to tubes that hold the dish soap. I am totally serious. I've washed a lot of dishes in my day--even professionally for such fine establishments as Perkins, Kentucky Fired Chicken, and Quiznos--and those sponge thingamajigs make life infinitely easier. They save more time than microwaves. I'm very passionate about this. So if you want to send me evidence that these sponges are the true source of the ebola virus, don't bother. I won't care. (I think we get the ScotchBrite kind from Walmart. If you get that one, only fill it about a third of the way up or it will leak.)
6. I'm told that when children get older they can be made to help with the dishwashing and table setting things, so you might want to take it easy on point 4.
And, yes, I am comfortable in my manhood.