Eating out is my love language. I’ve always said this. I think it must be because I crave and value uninterrupted time with my family. Eating at home is chaotic and I hate to cook. Then I have to clean. Truly, if you love me, you will take me out to eat.
So imagine how I suffered during the global shutdown. Restaurants everywhere beckoned to me from behind “closed” signs.
I dreamed of cheese dip and nachos. I craved fried rice. Pancakes, sub sandwiches and steak whispered to me tauntingly. Appetizers, pre-dinner bread, desserts… I don’t even order desserts, normally, or ever.
You can bet I went out to eat as soon as I could. I wasn’t waiting. I have friends who are still waiting to go out to eat. I can’t imagine what they are doing. Are they really eating every meal at home? How even? I’m baffled and confused.
I don’t even understand a kitchen where three meals a day might be prepared for seven days a week. In fact, if I ever move, I don’t even care if my next house HAS a kitchen. I watch house hunting shows on television where people only care about the kitchen. I don’t spend any time in mine, so I sure don’t care if it has granite in it.
Forgive me, dear people who love to cook. Don’t judge me, please. I make it work. I can whip up a meal. But, not without a lot of pain and anguish. I hate grocery shopping and I am a grownup who has no CLUE how you cut a tomato. My husband says I am Edward Scissorhands in the kitchen. He often takes over, especially if a knife is involved. I can’t say I haven’t taken advantage of this a time or two.
I can follow a recipe, but only with careful and VERY specific instructions. I stick to the things I know, which means that in a month, we get tired of having the same six meals seventeen times. This is where eating out becomes a major player.
I have commented that, should our budget require it, I would go without toilet paper before I gave up eating out. It was a curse this spring when I found myself to be without both. I found little comfort in the fact that the entire world was without both.
Listen, I am making myself sound quite unattractive in the homemaking, mother, wife department. I can sew. Somewhat. I mean, no clothes, but some pillows and curtains. I can crochet a mean scarf for a Christmas present. I love doing laundry. I don’t even mind cleaning a toilet. And I’ll fry me some corn fritters when I’m hungry. But ask me to prepare a meal for guests that isn’t tacos or pizza and I’m at a total loss. I truly just don’t have the creative mind to know how to put together a meal. It isn’t something that comes naturally for me.
So, I sat in that booth of the Mexican restaurant for the first time in three months with a total sigh of relief. It felt like coming home.
Expectation however is the enemy of reality. I waited on this moment for MONTHS. Literal, months.
Unfortunately, however, we took with us some major issues that stunted the enjoyment of such pleasure. It seems the state requires me to feed my children and not leave them home alone at the tender ages of 7, 4 and 1. My budget requires me to limit babysitters, especially if I’m going to eat out often. So, I took the kids with me, unrealistically thinking of the family togetherness that we might enjoy over some pleasant banter and shared tortilla chips.
Have you eaten out with kids, recently? The seats weren’t right according to someone's 3'8" perspective. Boy screamed because he wasn’t sitting by mom, why did the girl have to sit on the inside and the baby wanted to sit on the floor under the table. The crayon broke in half, the other one fell on the floor. A second kid disappeared under the table. Why can mom have a coke and the four-year-old can’t? Good question. It also resembles the one asked about why kids have to share a meal (because you never eat your entire meal!). O.k. so we can splurge. Everyone can get their own meal AND a soda (except the baby, of course). Boy wants a quesadilla … til we order it. Nope, now he wants chicken - because his sister is getting chicken. But if boy gets chicken, then girl doesn’t want it. Someone just spilled their drink. Everyone has to go potty! The meal comes and the chicken “looks funny.” It’s then that boy remembers he didn’t really want chicken. He wanted a quesadilla. Rice is everywhere.
I try to talk to my husband about our day. I cannot hear him over the crying and the fussing. There’s liquid running over the table edge into my lap. We need more napkins, please! Oh, and a refill!
We have long ago learned to budget so that we tip exceptionally well. I’ve been known to ask for a broom myself, but usually that just leaves kids running around a restaurant unattended, so I just do all I know to do and tip well.
I know families who just avoid eating out til kids are older. I will say, my kids do FAIRLY well eating out for their age. It’s part of growing up. Learning how to respectfully sit at a table and have a conversation is important to learn. Plus I’m just selfish about it. I refuse to give it up. Thankfully, I do not think we often disrupt other people’s meals (I said, “often”). Usually, it’s just my own meal that’s ruined.
Recently, everyone at WDUN had to work election night and Jacobs Media was so kind to bring dinner in for us all. I stood by the newsroom desk with my paper plate in hand and wondered if that could count as a “meal out,” considering I was alone, not cutting up chicken into tiny bits for someone else and had no cleanup to be responsible for. I believe it does count.
Eating out is my love language. Even if it’s hard right now. And way less enjoyable than it used to be.
I’ll still take it over having to come up with something at home any day!
I just want to sum up and say, that even as hard as it is eating out with kids - as messy, as chaotic, as nutso as it is, I will NEVER take eating out for granted again!
Today, I’m thankful for cheese dip.