I’ve determined over the past decade that it’s a good thing I paid attention in math class all those years growing up. I use a lot of math doing sometimes complicated calculations on an almost daily basis. “Do you work in a scientific or educational field that requires these computations?” you might ask. No, no I do not. What I do is cook for a crowd. Every day. Ok, so when I say crowd, I may be exaggerating a little. I have six children, so on many an occasion I am cooking for eight people, sometimes two or three times a day. But here’s a dirty little secret they don’t tell you when you decide to have a big family – most food isn’t meant for you.
I love to try new recipes. I have countless cookbooks and have had subscriptions to several cooking magazines over the years which I have held onto. I will occasionally get the urge to peruse the plethora of recipes available to me in these publications, not to mention the million plus recipes that are available online. But it never fails – I will find something that looks amazing and simple enough for me to handle, and then I look at how many servings it makes. If I am lucky, the answer is four. When that happens, all I have to do is double the recipe. Now, this would be easy except that most of the time when I am cooking I am either a) exhausted from a long day, b) being barraged by questions and noise and a variety of interruptions from my many children, husband, and dog, or c) all of the above. This often makes it difficult to concentrate on what I am doing. Far too often I read “2 tsp. basil” and thirty seconds later, when I have moved on to the next ingredient, I can’t remember if I actually thought to double the amount and start to have a minor panic attack as to whether my dish is going to be lacking the proper basil zing. Typically, I can figure it out, but there’s always the nagging question as to whether I have totally botched it until the food has actually been consumed.
If I am not lucky, the words “serves six” will appear before me. When that happens, I have to go into major estimation mode. Can I get away with feeding the whole family with just the basic recipe? Am I going to need to double it, because it looks good, so some of my more healthy eaters will likely want seconds or leftovers? Would it be best for me to make one and a half times the recipe? If this happens, the calculations become much more difficult, especially due to that mildly obsessive personality I mentioned before. Trying to put one and a half eggs into a bowl can prove to be a herculean task, especially when I’m dealing with the din of the house. One and a half times ¾ tsp makes my head hurt. And it never fails that an item is sold in the amount needed for one recipe, which means I have to buy two, throw out half of one, and feel guilty about the waste. Making dinner shouldn’t inflict recurring thoughts of the poor and hungry glaring at me with disdain while I throw away half a container of tomato paste. I get past it eventually, but it does take away from the joy of cooking.
On the positive side, I can cook for a real crowd without any trouble. Last year, I made our entire Thanksgiving meal by myself, and it really wasn’t much different than making dinner on any given Monday. When someone at our church has had a new baby or is sick and they ask for volunteers to make food for their family, it’s not really an issue for me – I’m already doubling what I’m doing, tripling it is a walk in the park. On those rare occasions that multiple children are staying elsewhere for the night, or my husband is out with them so they won’t be home for dinner, it’s a breeze to cook a “regular” amount of food, though it does feel wrong somehow. And we won’t discuss the fact that I often make a dessert that is supposed to feed twelve and when no one is looking I will scarf down or hide those extra four servings, you know, so there isn’t an argument later over who gets more. It’s a completely philanthropic thing to do.
I truly love to cook, so it doesn’t really bother me that I feel as though I am hosting a dinner party every night of my life. I just wish I could work out a deal like Jack Tripper had with Chrissy and Janet on “Three’s Company” – he cooks a gourmet meal every night, they clean up afterward. Because those mountains of dishes, flour all over the counter, crumbs on the floor, and empty cans piled by the sink can really ruin a cooking high, no matter how delicious the meal. Good thing there are some brownies hidden away to ease my pain after the kids go to bed.
Can you relate to the difficulties of cooking for a large family?