Caution: Martyr in the Kitchen

Yesterday I did it again. I can’t be helped. After a few weeks of diligent survival cooking, I saw a recipe over at Food on the Food for goat gyros. I love Food on the Food. I love gyros. I had a package of ground goat in the fridge, a cucumber going soft, a vat of plain yogurt and mint growing outside. The stars were aligned.

I mixed and baked and pressed the goat loaf. I diced and salted the cukes, drained the yogurt, minced the mint. I had really intended to just use white flour tortillas to wrap it all up in, but I couldn’t bring myself to put those luscious ingredients on store-bought tortillas. So I made flatbreads. Proofed, divided, rolled, cooked.

I started, wisely, in the afternoon during the 1YO’s nap. I got back at it around 4:00, and by 5:30 I was setting the table, small children notwithstanding. I was even up to date on the dishes. I’d cracked open a beer while I was at it, and I was feeling pretty good.

As smarter people might have predicted, it played out like any other family dinner. Apparently no one had got the memo that I was making a “special” meal. My Man sat down saying “I ate lunch late,” as an advance way of explaining why he wouldn’t eat much. It didn’t really matter what he said, because all I heard was the lack of “Oh my god, you made gyros for dinner!!! Homemade gyros, hip-hip-hooray!” The kids, for their part, wouldn’t touch the meat, let alone the tatziki or (first of the season!) homegrown tomato. They ate the flatbread without comment.

I sat alone in my own world, tasting and remarking in my head. Mmmm, delicious. Pretty crumbly meat, but the flavor’s right on. Oooo, that tatziki’s good. It’ll be even better tomorrow. Bread came out perfect, if I do say so myself. Soft and so wrap-able. And all would be well if that had completed the conversation in my head. But unfortunately there was a rip tide of Bitch Martyr Housewife. No one appreciates me. I try to feed my family wholesome, responsible, delicious food. I cook all day to make something special. No one even notices. No one cares. I work my fingers to the bone. Etc, etc.

Of course, the kids would rather I just fry straight-up patties and serve them with boiled potatoes. 25 minutes. That’s all they ask. Simple, separate, plain foods. And My Man has never been a big food person. He eats to keep from dying of starvation. He tries to get in a ‘thank you, it was good’ at every meal, for my sake, but with the uproar of small kids at the table niceties are often lost in the shuffle.

Which leaves me– passionate eater, indefatigable cook. Setting my higher cooking notions aside to be a ‘mom cook’ has been a long, painful journey. I do have hopes for the future, the 3YO particularly had an incredibly adventurous palette and lust for food at the outset and may well come back around. But for now, my audience is callous. Cooking brilliances fall on deaf ears. Everybody (else) wants plain simple food. They sure as hell didn’t ask me to make gyros. I can hardly hold them responsible for being less than exuberant.

It’s selfish really, the fancy cooking. Selfish under the guise of generous. Which I guess is what turns a good person into a martyr. I’m doing all this for you, so you’d better thank me. Starts with ‘I,’ ends with ‘me.’

Every time I tell myself, ‘This time I won’t be mad. This time I know full well that I’m doing this for me. I will just eat it and enjoy it.’ And every time the Bitch Martyr Rip Tide comes up out of nowhere and cuts my legs out from under me.

No more! I say. Survival cooking from now on. Protein, starch, veg. Leaving time to clean the house, or read a book. No more guilt trips, no more terse looks at the dinner table. No more ranty morning-after blog posts.

Until I find another recipe I just can’t live without.

This time will be different.

16 thoughts on “Caution: Martyr in the Kitchen

  1. Oh bless you this couldnt have came at a better time for me.
    I think we all tend to fall into that trap. Be it with our cooking or making cute things/clothes or even going that extra mile with cleaning. Makes you miss “real work” where you could hear all the good jobs and keep up the great work all day. I wouldnt trade back in for the world, but yeah some days it is hard not to shout “COME ON it is military corners on that bed people, military corners! Give me some @$%& praise already.” Never mind that no one actually asked or even really wanted me to do it in the first place…. ; )

  2. Your post sounds familiar. I don’t aspire to be nearly the cook that you are, but there are lots of interesting recipes I’ve found that I’d like to try. They require too much time or to many ingredients, and I’ve found that my son and my husband don’t usually like them after all. I try to tell myself that I will do more interesting cooking when I have more time, like maybe 15 years from now! Plus I’ve recently come to the realization that I’m a product oriented person, not a process person, so while I really want to try the end result, the getting there stresses me out more than necessary if I don’t have the time and semi-support for the process. I’m trying to stick to the basics here too. Good luck and here’s to more interesting eating in the future!

  3. P.S. I’m in the process of trying your grape nuts idea with a half loaf of bread I made from last week! It’s still drying a little more.

  4. OMG! LOL! I had no idea that what I do was a syndrome and had a name BMH. I love it. It is so me. You nailed it. Why do we do this? I don’t know. I keep waiting for the time in my life where I don’t care that anyone appreciates what I do cuz I do it for me, but alas it still hasn’t happened. Thank you for this post. It made me laugh and realize once again, we are not alone in this homemaking endeavor. There are others who are just like us.

  5. Here’s the thing. If you only serve the kids plain food, that’s all they will ever like and eat. By making delicious, adventurous meals, you are broadening their horizons. I read somewhere that it takes up to 10 exposures to a new food for kids to decide they like something or not. And you have the right to eat something besides plain food also. My husband and I cook indian, thai and other stuff. We really tone down the spice for Keku. If it was up to her, we would eat plain noodles at every meal. Well, that’s not going to happen. And I don’t want plain food at every meal either. So don’t feel like you have to cook just what they like, it should be what you like also. As far as feeling martyred, well your family should at least say “thank you” for making dinner. I think teaching them that you are not to be taken for granted is a good thing. Keku is reminded to be grateful for what she has for food, not be picky. Just my two cents.

  6. I agree with Julie. We raised our boys at the table in our laps eating off our plates when they first started solid foods and they will eat everything. They are now 17 and 20 and they are both good cooks and love good food. Don’t despair, make that wonderful healthy food–they’ll get it. My 17yo just gave up sugar all on his own after reading Sugar Blues.

  7. OH CJ!!!! This post brought back so many memories…and guess what? I have a 20 yr. old and a 17 yr. old along with the hubby and no matter what I cook–somebody doesn’t want it. Except for cheeseburgers with pan fried potatoes. EVERYONE likes that. Sigh. But gosh, we do get ourselves into a tizzy don’t we? Thanks for the laugh.

    It reminded me of one time when I got up at 5 a.m. with the urge to make blueberry muffins from scratch (with fresh blueberries, natch) for everyone before they headed off on their respective paths. Hubby got irritated cause “I was TRYING to leave EARLY”, youngest son said “I don’t want to carry that to school!” (He always waits until the last possible second to get out of bed so there’s never time for a sit down breakfast) and oldest son said “Muffins? I HATE muffins!” Who the heck HATES muffins? How is that even POSSIBLE?

    The good news is, I made them again on a weekend morning and EVERYONE loved them. Timing is everything.

  8. Yep, another one I know all too well… happens most nights in fact, but esp. when I have gone to alot of trouble, perhaps made 3 versions of the meal to suit the Coeliac, the Fuss-pots, and me, the Foodie…. and the kids won’t eat it without fussing and cajoling and bribing and threatening and being fed! However, my husband loves my food, appreciates the variety and extra stuff I do, and *usually* remembers to say how much he loves it, which he knows is expected!!

    You’ll be at it again soon!

    1. I Had the SAME issues + Diabetes and carb counting …. I find that when I make say Mexican tacos, that have many side dishes, hot pan fried meat, grilled vegies, + fresh diced salsa, celantro…..where all the Fuss-pots can make their Own plate to suite themselves, Then I am Happier. More Thank Yous. Also I realized, that if I was HUNGRY for gyros or steak, then I NEEDED to eat it first Hot from the pan with a glass of wine. Really Feed My Body first, eat while I was happy cooking. So that I was Joyful, Bellyful, and a pleasure for everyone to be with at the table.

  9. (Oh, I must mention though, that though I am sick of them fussing, which ruins my meal time… lately, there has been alot of successes, and they’ve been giving me a thumbs up ‘rating’… two thumbs is good, all their fingers up is great, and fantastis is when they stand up ‘whole body’!!)

  10. Shit I would have loved it. If u have leftovers I’ll savor them next week and give you a big hug and kiss. Ur my hero. Muahh

  11. Ah, I’m still giggling. Yep, yep, yep. Thank you. I know that feeling oh so well.
    My friend keeps sending me links to your blog and now I think I have fallen in love with you – time to subscribe. Your humour; wit; obvious love for your family; taste for good, homemade food; crafty excellence and so much more have reeled me in. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us other punk housewives (I LOVE that term).

  12. Brilliant post. Thank you for laying out what happens to a lot of us, though we perhaps haven’t take the time to reflect on the process and step-by-step analysis as you have – which is in fact the key, i feel, to preventing it! thanks again CJ!

  13. Hey CJ! Yep,, totally with you on this one, if you swap the cooking for the knitting. And I think we should both just give up and cook and knit for ourselves!!!

    That way *they* will appreciate it more when *they* don’t have it anymore…..wont they????


  14. It never ceases to amaze me how perfectly you can describe the very ways I punish and torture myself. I work full-time and I’m a part-time Ph.D. student, yet when I get home at night, I still WANT to cook a nice meal for my family, and myself. Sometimes I find myself being overly ambitious, secretly hoping that my husband will be overjoyed with my latest recipe adventure, and that my 2-year-old will eat more than 2 bites of whatever I’ve taken far too long to get on the table. But it’s all for me, really, and all they really want is simple food that is ready NOW. Maybe we should work on a few recipes like that to share amongst ourselves? Thanks for your honesty and for always speaking to my very soul!

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