Cooking Up Memories

Four Years of Meals Shared, and Remembered

I have never filled in a baby book. I have never scrapbooked. I’ve taken my children for professional photos twice, and have managed to send out family holiday cards exactly zero times.

Funny then that I’ve managed to record what my family has eaten for dinner, every evening, going on four years now. 

This practice began during my first yearlong maternity leave, when I crept cautiously into the kitchen, and discovered that I actually enjoyed cooking for my new little family. Originally intended as part motivational tool/part ego boost, I jotted down the day’s culinary adventure in it’s proper square on the calendar hanging in my kitchen, and marveled as the grid became heavy with print. 

Tofu Stir-Fry on Rice Noodles, read February 17, 2006.

Blueberry Pancakes with Home Fries – clearly my daughter chose the menu for September 6, 2008.

Leek-Mushroom Strudel made more than one appearance in early 2009 – a recent family favorite.

Not only am I able to watch my skill, tenacity and courage in the kitchen evolve with this record, but the calendars have become memory-keepers as well: where spaces have been left blank, we recall mini-vacations taken. Purple ink decries a family member’s birthday meal, or perhaps the square is marked, BBQ, implying a summer Sunday spent in my backyard, surrounded by friends, family and food. 

I love that so many Sunday squares throughout the summer months read simply, BBQ.

I use the calendar as a food guide as well, easily keeping track of the number of vegetarian meals prepared, number of times we’ve eaten fish or red meat. I like finding the patterns – how every Monday since returning to work has been marked with, ’slow cooker,’ or that I tend to make pasta on Wednesdays and soup on Thursdays. I can go back to previous months if I’m feeling uninspired, and it’s fascinating to track the meals that have remained popular, as well as those that have somehow gone out of style around our dinner table.

Of course, the calendar can also act as my hall of shame, a permanent record upon which I am unable to deny the frequency of take-out or frozen dinners in a given month. I sometimes sum up the number of days I cooked vs. the number of days I didn’t, and there are times when the ratio is disappointing to my inner nutritionist, as well as my wallet. 

The old calendars are tucked away upstairs; meals marking the hours, the weeks, the years that my family spends together. I may not be able to recall how much my children weighed at six months, but if either of my girls ever wonders what she chose for her birthday dinner in 2009, I’ll know just where to look to find out.

Karen Green is a writer, editor, mother, author of the blog, The Kids Are Alright, and most recently, keyboard warrior. She hopes that moms across Canada will head to the internet to gain and share information before they head to the polls on May 2, because let's face it - this isn't kids' stuff.