Keeping Dinner Warm

Every evening, around 5:30, Ryan calls and lets me know that he is walking out the office door. Of course, sometimes he walks faster than others (aka, he IS the computer guy and sometimes gets tagged with a question before he escapes), but he’s always home at some point between 5:30 and 6:00.

Nonetheless, I have continually struggled with timing dinner preparations so that everything is fresh, hot, crisp, and lively when we sit down at the table.

This drives me NUTS because I saw a perfect dinner in the pot fifteen minutes ago, but by the time it’s on our plates, it looks dull, limp, and over-cooked. After a particularly soggy pasta the other night, I resolved to research the secrets to easy meal preservation.

Not being a television watcher, I might be telling Food Network Lovers something you already know, but just in case you don’t know, HERE IS THE SECRET I UNCOVERED:

* THERE IS NO EASY SECRET! There is no easy “three dashes of salt” or “one tablespoon of vinegar” that will fix a miserably overcooked lump of food. Nope!  And nothing will stabilize noodles in the pot at their perfect al dente for minutes on end.

* There is, however, a VERY HARD SECRET! All of the cooks who shared their input online seemed to agree that, as insulting as it is to those of us delivering mushy overcooked meals to the table, we have failed to learn one very important skill in cookery: timing.

They say timing is an essential part of being a good cook in the first place! (Who knew?!)

These cooks map out every meal. They schedule every minute of preparation, considering the extra time for pre-heating and pre-seating. Spread-sheets and post-it-notes fly around their kitchens with the chopped broccoli and demi glace. The biggest difference between me and them is that they choose to glory in the pressure of the last minute – the literal LAST MINUTE – when every fresh, crisp, steaming dish dings at the same moment and parades proudly to the awaiting plates of loved-ones.

I’m trying not to wither just thinking about it. Instead, I’m throwing my shoulders back and aiming to pay more attention to timing… which will be a snap with the phone ringing, small children gnawing my leg in starvation, and the radio blaring (the evening news that comes on after the children’s hour that I never have time or clean hands to silence).



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3 responses to “Keeping Dinner Warm”

  1. Heather Avatar

    you should totally see Julie and Julia (minus like a few pieces of language) it is so good. you’d appreciate it.

  2. Kari Avatar

    really enjoyed Julie and Julia as well, minus the obligatory Hollywood crude words. I got a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking for my birthday, but, after reading I won’t be mastering it for a while. Laura, you are so right about this timing thing— it just goes to show you that cooking is an art!!

  3. Amy Avatar

    Ah, yes, you are so right–timing’s totally the hardest part, even without children wrapped around your leg. The more meals I plan, prepare, and serve, the more wowed I am at my Mom pulling off huge Thanksgiving-like dinners for big crowds on a regular basis.

    I try to leave things to the last moment to keep food just right… and then I wind up having diners sit down with whichever one part of the plate turns out done first. Ha. “Let’s begin with our spinach, and I’ll bring out the chicken soon.” 🙂

    I will say I’ve been having some recent kitchen triumphs, though. Yesterday I made this Indian-style chick pea dish I used to make and love. I hadn’t had it for years. This time, with new years of ambitious cooking under my belt, I realized it’s so very easy! I used to think it was a fancy, challenging dish and now it’s child’s play. I must be making progress.

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