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Training, Tantrums and Steak Tartare

by Carilyn on November 29, 2012

Apricot Glazed Pork Tender with Wilted Spinach and Yukon Gold Mash
(meal missed from 1975 to 1983)

I’ve missed a lot of meals. I know you find that hard to believe considering how often I talk about food on this blog: eating it, cooking it, pining for it. But growing up as a competitive swimmer meant that I was rarely home at meal times. Morning weight sessions required leaving the house at 5:30 for the drive across town. Breakfast was eaten grumpily and apathetically, with tantrums not being uncommon, probably contributing to my ambivalence about that meal to this day. I mean, really, there are only so many yummy and quick foods you can shovel down every morning that won’t stick in your adolescent braces, or make you sick while you are training.

But more than screwing up my breakfast palate, all my years spent in the water, instead of at the table, have made me a dinner freak. Or as my kids like to call me, the Dinner Nazi. I insist on Family Dinner every night.

Growing up, my mother made things like Rosemary Beef Tender, Braised Pot Roast with Roma tomatoes and Vidalia onions, and  beef enchiladas with a tomatillo sauce served with frijoles that had been simmering on the stove all day. There was always an apple pie or pineapple upside down cake on the counter.

And I hardly ever got to eat any of it because I was never home.

With evening practice lasting from 5 to 8 Monday through Friday, I was only home for dinner on Saturdays and Sundays. My parents usually went out on Saturday nights, so that only left Sunday night for Family Dinner. And it was my favorite night of the week. We’d sit around eating some of Mom’s homemade meatloaf with mashed potatoes, laughing until milk spewed from our noses, basking in the energy (more commonly termed “bullying”) of a big family. Or we’d go to my grandparents house where I got to try homemade Au Gratin Potatoes and Yorkshire pudding with Standing Rib Roast for the first time, recipes I still make for my kids today.

Whether they want them or not.

You see, all those missed meals are now being forced upon my kids. All work, running, and incidentals must be done by 5:00 every evening so I can start dinner. You can often find me frantically running on the treadmill at 4:50, trying to squeeze in my last bit of mileage before it is quitting time. For most people, 5:00 signals the Cocktail Hour. For me, it is the Magic Hour, and it is time to play. Time to experiment with recipes I wished I’d gotten to eat more of as a kid, recipes I dream about while I run, recipes my brothers and sister were eating while I was swimming lap after lap, night after night (and don’t think I don’t remind them of this on a regular basis). Family Dinner is my chance for a re-do.

But for my poor kids, it is a sometimes unwelcome journey down memory lane. They never know what’s coming. Each evening, I hear them enter the house cautiously, wary of what might be brewing in one of the 4 pots on the stove. I can see their brains taking in the scene wondering:

Will we be forced to eat another recipe that involves raw meat, or worse, an ingredient from 1975?

Did people really used to eat Creamed Tuna on Toast?

Is something on fire?

Is that stew, or is Mom washing our running shoes?


The makings of homemade chicken stock last night, not boiling running shoes. Sorry for the scare, boys.

I’d like to think our Family Dinners will leave lasting memories of love and nurturing in my sons’ minds for the rest of their lives, but it’s probably more likely they will only remember how many dishes they had to wash after I recreated one more Family Dinner I had missed.

I just hope they don’t end up serving their kids McDonald’s every night trying to make up for all the “good food” they missed.


Happy Running!




{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Kirstin C (@ultrarunnergirl) November 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I love that you make stock from scratch and insist on family dinner.
Cooking is so fulfilling to me, probably got that from my mom too.

Kate November 29, 2012 at 12:29 pm

We grew up with family meals, too, though I only missed them during basketball season. With my middle son’s club volleyball schedule combined with my night class schedule last year, combined with my oldest son moving out…we kind of got away from family meals. Nathan and I ate whatever we could shovel down on the drive (sounds familiar, huh?), Jeff and Jacob ate…whatever Jeff came up with to feed them, and Daniel most likely ate Banquet $.99 meals. Now we’re all together in the house with a much reduced schedule, but our family dinners still aren’t as frequent as they were. That makes me sad…guess I could do something about it, though, huh?

olga November 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm

You can come cook for my family any time. Since I’ve been doing it all my life, I pretty much hate it by now. Well, strong word. I am apathetic. To both cooking and family dinners (which we have every night my whole life as well). I am more of a “eat in front of electronic device with a piece and mix of something on a plate” person, but don’t get to do it often. I prefer to cook lots on Sunday and use it as pre-prep for night meals. And I surely ain’t sing recipes! Not to mention I don’t show up at home until after a full day of work – and still need some exercise to squeeze…

Sarah November 29, 2012 at 1:45 pm

They’ll remember and appreciate it! My husband cooks most dinners in our house. (I bake!) I’ve gotten so lazy about it that on the one night a week he works, my son and I go out to dinner. I justify it as mother-son quality time. :-)

Carilyn November 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm

That’s so great that your husband cooks, Sarah! What a treat! And I don’t blame you for going out – that is probably a special time for your son :)

Carilyn November 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm

What a great idea to do a lot of the cooking on Sunday, Olga! I wish I was more organized :)

Carilyn November 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm

It’s tough to get it all done, I know. I miss a lot of other things on a regular basis. And trust me, Kate, I think my kids wished I didn’t make dinner every night :)

Carilyn November 29, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Cooking is fun, Kirstin – maybe that’s why I’m so interested in your coffeeneuring. It seems like another great way to enjoy food :)

Char November 29, 2012 at 2:09 pm

You know it’s the duty of every parent to torture their children. It helps build character and resilience and helps the parents heal from all the parental torture that was inflicted on them. I torture my kids by writing sarcastic comments on their Facebook posts (and they still haven’t blocked me yet), you do it with food. You make me so proud to be a parent.

Carilyn November 29, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I love it, Char! Torture, torture, torture! :)

pensive pumpkin November 30, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I don’t (as I point out as often as possible, sheesh) have kids to torture. I’d love to torture yours if you get bored with them. Ship them up here in a box with lots of air holes. I will bake them bread and allow them to eat pie for dinner. In front of the television, should they so desire. Though tonight it is sweet potato soup because I am enamoured with this whole Plant Based thing.

But I 100% agree that those evenings are sacred. I had to work damned hard to find a man willing to put up with my poop. (see, I am nice and didn’t curse on your blog. though I had to go back and edit it.) Evenings and *gasp!* weekends are for him, unless I have a race scheduled. In which case he must stand at the finish line for hours on end waiting to see if I am dead or just amazingly slow. Because I was not a child athlete. I signed up for swim team for the cool swimsuit, and then complained that they made me race every weekend.

You should totally make them eat steak tartare, though. At least it doesn’t cook very long.

Carilyn November 30, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Love your comments, PP! And be expecting a box soon!

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