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By Contributing Mama Karen Palmer Bland

I have some very kind friends who always say to me, “You are super woman! You had 3 kids in less than 3 years, you have a t-shirt business, you do ad agency recruiting, you work on fundraising for your school and you find time to write.”

My stomach turns when I hear this. Sort of like when someone comments on your awesome (and fake) Prada purse – you can’t let them go on thinking it’s the real deal. Right?  So when my friends compliment my go-getter-ness,  I usually try to smile and say thank you, but more often than not, I tell them my dirty little secret: I DON’T COOK REAL MEALS FOR MY FAMILY.

Dinner at our house consists of store-bought rotisserie chicken, grilled cheeses, noodles with Prego or what I call Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (CBT). CBT consists of lime yogurt, bananas, pickles, grapes, cheese and crackers.

And on special occasions, I order out (or defrost) the all-foodgroups-in-one-course-dinner….PIZZA! My kids love pizza. In the last few years, I have found myself defending pizza – actually promoting the health value. Some people look down at pizza. They consider it “junk food.”   I know that my inlaws “don’t do pizza” yet they are quick to eat a buttery grilled cheese. And let’s face it, pizza is grilled cheese with a VEGETABLE people – it’s called a tomato. Or maybe it’s a fruit. But either way, why does pizza get the bad rap?

I feel sorry for my husband, Jeffrey. He grew up in a very traditional family with weekly trips to the grocery store, meal planning and square meals. Jeffrey’s mother still prepares 3-4 course meals for herself and her husband every night. Lamb, veal, brisket, ribs – with a starch and a vegetable and a bundt cake to top it off. And let’s not forget the all-too-often cheese course that usually makes its way to their dinner table each week.

Yes, it’s intimidating. (Although we did have cream cheese on crackers here tonight so perhaps that was a watered down cheese course.) By now, my husband knows to just eat a big (and late) lunch, to tide him over during the yogurt and pita chip dinner at home. Fortunately, as Jeffrey always says, his favorite food is quantity.

I have friends who tell me that their husband would NEVER stand for this – that they HAVE to have their protein and their vegetable and a dessert. But I use the kids as my excuse (and we have three little excuses). They are finicky. They don’t eat many things and they don’t eat the same things. However, we have found common ground with lime yogurt, pizza and waffles. And I force a piece of fruit down their throats every day.

So is it so terrible that I don’t marinate or stew or braise or scallop? (I’m not even sure what “braise” means but I think the chicken salad that I picked up from Whole Foods might include this, so maybe I DO braise!)

I feel a bit guilty.  I have a Wolf range, All Clad pots and pans  and all the other wedding gift stuff from Williams-Sonoma. (I love that store – very inspiring. Although I didn’t have the heart to keep the crème brulee torcher.  That got returned.) But, as I tell everyone, I just don’t have the time or the meal-planning gene. Luckily for now, my kids aren’t old enough to notice that there often is no real difference between breakfast and dinner at our house. And dinner here sort of resembles what they will eat as college students in another 15 years – so perhaps they’re just getting a headstart.

15 Responses to my dirty little secret

  • Rachel says:

    We may have been seperated at birth.  I, too, am missing the meal planning/cooking gene, I’ve just never considered it a secret.    I’m totally with you on the grilled cheese + vegetable = pizza!  Eureka!

  • christy says:

    I thank god every day that the man I married loves to eat and more importantly loves to cook. Before I met him I literally ate stove top stuffing and egg sandwiches for dinner every day.  I am sure your kids love what they eat and they’re healthy – and that’s the important thing.

    You know what you should look though if ever wanted a fancy ‘home cooked’ meal – – Let’s Dish – I just discovered them around here – totally awesome meals you just heat up. A friend gave us some after the baby was born and they were delicious-o!

  • tanya palmer says:


    I like your style. Your kids are beautiful and healthy – and your menus “work”
    But one thing you forgot to mention: You are the Cookies Queen, you know.
     So there are those special times when your famous chocolate chip or shortbread heart cookies receive the coveted clean plate reward for clean plates after a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving dinner special.

  • Rhea says:

    It”s nice to hear that you’re not super woman,  because otherwise I’d have to take you out.  You know, so men don’t think they can find a woman who actually does everything.  That’s just not fair to the rest of it.  lol

    Thanks for sharing your secret!

  • carol says:

    My boyfriend’s mom didn’t cook. So he has little or no expectations for me to cook. It’s great. My ex-husband expected a meal with all the food groups on the table every night. Did that for 15 or so years and even though I love to cook I got really sick of it. So now sometimes I cook and sometimes it’s frozen lasagna or whatever like tonight. Thanks for sharing.

  • Eve says:

    you forgot some of your greatest attributes.. YOU are the BEST room mom, the greatest cookie baker, and most important Rory’s BEST advocate!
    So take that to the kitchen!

  • I just have no patience for cooking now and it really is an exercise in futility in my house since my three year old and two year old twins will only eat grilled cheese. And I could easily live on Trader Joe’s frozen dinners if need be. I like fine dining as much as the next person, but not if I’m the one doing the cooking.  Maybe someday…

  • patois says:

    I say “Bravo” to you for fessin’ up. I’ve got three — but not so little, really — and the only time we have real meals is when my husband the cook is not out of town. The rest of the time…maybe it’s best left unsaid.

  • Jennifer H says:

    You’ve just described the eating situation at our house. I’ve decided what we do is good enough. I can pull a whole meal together if I need to, but fortunately, my husband’s fairly content with a ham sandwich (or the equivalent) quite a lot.

  • Diane says:

    We are kindred spirits! The sweet man I married 15 years ago had no expectations when it came to culinary prowess in his bride – and those expectations were met. One of the best memories he brought to the marriage from his childhood was ‘Fend for yourself night’. On a good day I’ll offer a Lean Cuisine for lunch for my little girls (veggies plus protien!). My kids buy lunch every day at school because they don’t like the lunches mom packs. Thanks for sharing – I’m not alone.

  • Lanie says:

    Very funny!  There really is not enough time in the day to do everything and cooking is not all it is cracked up to be (so, I am glad that you are prioritizing).  🙂

  • Lanie says:

    And, you do make good cookies!  I still remember that you brought me a basket of them when I first moved to St. Louis – thanks again!

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