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Rob Jenkins: How to be a guy: basic family meal preparation 101

How to be a guy: basic family meal preparation 101

Most family men are capable of at least elementary food preparation: boiling, thawing, toasting, microwaving, dialing. Using these basic processes, we are able when necessary to provide meals that are, if not enticing, at least minimally edible.

The problem is that we generally have to eat these meals, too, unless we've managed to sneak a Quarter Pounder on the way home--which, by the way, I wholeheartedly recommend.

For this reason, most of us are content to let our wives do the cooking, just as they are content to let us take care of automobile maintenance. In fact, to many of us, this seems like a perfectly reasonable division of labor--which no doubt it would be, if we only ate once every three months or 3,000 miles.

The truth is, with a working wife, active children, and conflicting schedules, today's family man will be called upon frequently to prepare meals, and he had better be ready. This means following a few basic rules that will make the mom-less dining experience beneficial to your family and, if not pleasant, then at least tolerable.

Rule # 1: Eat something green. Lime Jell-O doesn't count. Neither does anything that wasn't green before you put it in the refrigerator.

There are basically two types of green foods: dead and alive. Dead green foods include green beans, peas, okra, spinach -- all those lumpy, slimy substances that stimulated your gag reflex as a child but which you have now learned to tolerate.

Live green foods include lettuce and fresh cucumbers. These are not bad, as long as they are completely smothered in a thick dressing or a similar arterial coating compound.

Rule #2: Use at least three of the main food groups. Most men recognize only two food groups: sweet and salty. However, you should try to remember what you learned in eighth-grade health class.

No, not that. I'm talking about the basic food groups: meats, grains, fruits and vegetables, poultry, and dairy. Try to include at least three of those in every meal, so as to provide your children with a balanced diet. Otherwise, they might fall over.

That doesn't mean you can't be creative in the way you present these food groups. Ice cream, for example, is made from milk, a diary product. Chocolate ice cream contains cocoa beans, which are vegetables. A cone is baked from a flour base. Thus a chocolate ice cream cone can be seen as a nutritious meal in itself.

Rule # 3: Provide alternatives. If possible, try to prepare a menu with alternative choices to potentially unpopular items. For example, if spinach makes your children spew, you might want to offer them a suitable alternative, such as collard greens.

One quick note: Captain Crunch is not a suitable alternative in this instance. It's for you to eat after the kids go to bed.

Rob Jenkins is a local writer and author of Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter@rjenkinsgdp.