What a blessing and responsibility to be the weeknight cook in your family. On a good night, you’re inspired — you’ve got fabulous ingredients and are ready to rock the kitchen with a certain meal you know everyone loves. But when the fridge is empty and you’re out of ideas, it’s a whole other story.
Wait a minute! You’re a great cook. A crafty, engaged food shopper. You love recipes, grow your own herbs, and care about nutrition. So why do you run out of steam around midweek? Your problem isn’t weeknight cooking. It’s TOO MUCH weeknight cooking.
Even passionate cooks have subversive fantasies of blowing off the weeknight dinner hour altogether. Out on a bike ride? Keep on riding. Feeling lowly? Hop in a hot bath and hide out until mealtime is long past. I am now living these fantasies two nights a week, except our family still eats a fabulous dinner at home — it’s just prepared by somebody else.
When I formed a neighborhood dinner co-op, I found balance and got re-energized in the kitchen. In fact, you could say I got my groove back. I had so many weeknights to NOT cook, that when my night rolled around once a week, I was ready to turn some heads. Cooking for two extra families broadened my audience and somehow elevated my game.
I work in advertising, and my best work almost always happens when there’s a little pressure to perform — and a clear deadline. With my dinner co-op, I allow myself about two and a half hours once a week to throw down 12 servings of something exciting. My husband and kids do the deliveries for me, then I’m off the hook for days.
One of the best things about our dinner co-op has been the variety of meals that we’re trading: Roasted Eggplant Lasagna, Salmon with Fresh Strawberry Relish, Indian Lentil Burritos, Vanilla Pork with Granny Smith Apples, exotic noodle salads, roasted, caramelized beets and root vegetables, incredible chutneys, and fresh fruit salsas. Finely shaved prime-rib sandwiches with horseradish sauce and watercress. Crisp salads with grapefruit, avocado, hearts of palm, cheeses, seeds, nuts, homemade croutons, and fresh herb dressings. Stuff you cannot pull out of a freezer.
Trying to get your groove back? You could go all the way to Jamaica in search of Taye Diggs. Or just hop on your cruiser bike and see what’s cooking right down the block.
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Want more? Comb the archives.
Change in our kitchens
Reflections on cooking — and a career that’s based largely at the stove.
Flatbreads from around the continent
Beyond a supporting role
The great Sicilian-Neapolitan kitchen rivalry
Five ideas each month for eating better