Family Dinner… An Honest Glimpse Into My Home

Last week, I came across Shauna’s blog post asking everyone to share what family dinner is like our homes to celebrate her latest cookbook (yup, that’s an Amazon affiliate link) that is hitting shelves today. I had great plans of photographing a great family dinner, talking about the importance of everyone sitting down to eat together, and painting a lovely portrait of dinner at my house on an “ordinary” night.

I would photograph our dinner on Saturday evening. I was planning to make beef tenderloin with sauteed kale raab (like broccoli raab, from our CSA) and roasted gold potatoes. That’s the kind of meal that you would expect a food blogger to serve to her family. Of course, I would note the fact that the veggies all came from our CSA and the grass-fed beef came from a local farm.

All that would have been true… But, the dinner never happened. Life happened.

The weekend ended up being busier than I had anticipated for a variety of reasons. My food-blog-appropriate dinner turned into a quick homemade pizza thrown together with some pizza dough left over from Friday night. There weren’t fancy toppings. It was topped with cheese and sprinkled liberally with some pizza seasoning. I confess that I even used some jarred marinara sauce because I didn’t have the energy to cook. And, I’m OK with that.

I considered pulling the plug on the blog post altogether. What would everyone think? Jarred sauce? On a food blog? Shouldn’t I be cooking from scratch? And, writing about pizza for a post related to a gluten-free cookbook?

It certainly wasn’t the kind of meal that you’d see beautifully photographed on one of the many food photography sites. There were no perfectly pressed linens with beautiful matching plates and perfectly arranged props. I pushed the clutter out of the way to make enough room on the dining room table for the pizza peel. We grabbed some plates and sat down for dinner.  Madison has started dining with us in the last few weeks, so I also grabbed a squeeze pack of baby food, her dinner for the evening – a lovely blend of broccoli, peas, and pears. (Yes, that’s right, I hadn’t even made my own baby food… That’s another story for another day.)

I really considered not sharing my family dinner experience… Perhaps I was a bit ashamed of the fact that life had gotten the best of me and I was just throwing dinner together at the last minute. I think part of me also felt like I have a bit of an image to keep up (though, lately I haven’t been doing that very well, even if I was trying). It just felt like one more link in a long chain of my failures for the day.

I was ready to abandon ship. Then, I remembered this line from the “About” page of my site.

My Kitchen Addiction is an honest glimpse into my kitchen and my life.

It grounded me.

Then a light bulb went off and the gears in my mind started spinning.  Perhaps the reason that I have had so little inspiration to write lately is that I am trying to maintain an image that isn’t mine.

I have never been the blogger with a lovely table-scape in my photos. Those photographs are lovely, and I love looking at them. But, they’re not (and never have been) me. I photograph the food that we’re eating, and I like for the food to speak for itself.

When it comes to the food that I am cooking, I do try to cook from scratch as much as possible.  I try to use local and organic ingredients. But, sometimes we all need a jar of pasta sauce from Wegmans. If you stop reading my blog because I admitted to using a jarred sauce, I think I’m OK with that.

It all left me with one question running through my mind… Why do I feel as though my photos, my recipes, and, in the end, my life need to be perfect in order to show up here? I’m certainly not perfect, and I don’t know who I am trying to impress.

So, here I am writing about our family dinner on Saturday evening. We had homemade pizza… Well, I guess it was mostly homemade pizza. And, it wasn’t gluten-free, but I don’t think Shauna will mind. (Shauna, I hope you don’t mind!)

Looking back on it all, I think pizza was just what we needed.

The evening started out poorly… Madison was exhausted and refusing to nap.  She finally fell asleep just as the pizza was coming out of the oven. So, we sat down to eat dinner without her, despite the fact that I try to eat as a family as much as possible, even though she is still only 6 months old. I was tired and frustrated after dealing with the nap time screaming and trying to get dinner together at the last second. And, my husband is a saint for putting up with it all.

So, we started dinner out without a lot of talking. But, as we began to eat and relax, we finally started chatting. As it so often does around the dinner table, the day started to melt away. We were able to enjoy our pizza (which, while it may not have been the gourmet, locally sourced meal that I had in mind, was delicious) and forget about the worries of the day. As we were starting to finish up with our dinner, we heard little Maddie waking up from her (rather short) nap. She then joined us at the table and enjoyed her pear, broccoli, and pea puree (which I usually call her “green goop”).  We watched her smear food all over her face and play with her sippy cup.

It wasn’t the perfect evening I had originally envisioned in my mind… And, I certainly won’t be submitting the photos to any food photo sites.  But, in the end, it was the perfect end to a busy day.

I did end up making the beef tenderloin, roasted potatoes, and sauteed kale raab on Sunday night. I could have photographed it and written about that dinner. Perhaps it would have been a more impressive blog post. But, this time, writing about pizza just felt right.

As I mentioned before, Shauna and Dan’s new book Gluten-Free Girl Every Day (yes, another Amazon affiliate link, in case you were curious) comes out today… And, they were the inspiration for this blog post.

I realize that this is not a strictly gluten-free blog. But, that doesn’t stop me from cooking (and even baking) gluten-free from time to time. I do not personally have an issue with gluten and I’m not trying to be trendy.  For me, it’s about trying new things. There is a whole world of food out there, and I like to experiment with it all. There are a lot of really fabulous things that are naturally gluten-free!

Whether you need to follow a gluten-free diet for health reasons, you enjoy experimenting with food, or you are just looking for a great cookbook filled with lots of heart and soul, I think this is one for you. As I am writing this, my copy of Gluten-Free Girl Every Day (you guessed it – Amazon affiliate link!) is still on its way to my house. I pre-ordered it a while ago because I am confident that it is one that will have a permanent home on my kitchen bookshelf, just as soon as I finish reading it from cover to cover. (I have read their last cookbook from cover to cover, twice.)

Please Note – The links to Gluten-Free Girl Every Day provided in this post are Amazon affiliate links.  If you purchase this cookbook (or another item) after  clicking on my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale price, which helps to keep My Kitchen Addiction up and running. Thanks!

19 Responses to Family Dinner… An Honest Glimpse Into My Home

  1. Jen – thank. you. For being honest. I love that I can come to your blog and know that it’s “all you” and I love the honest look into your kitchen. Who wants to read about perfection all the time? Not me, cos my dinner last night was a bowl of cereal. We love you even more for being honest! Truth!

  2. Love this Jen, and so glad you decided to share. We all have those days, perfection is overrated anyway! PS – Madison just gets cuter every day :)

  3. Jen, there is nothing to gain by pretending life if picture perfect…except stress and anxiety. Good on you for keeping it real.

    PS, you and need to be texting because it’s like we’re living the same life.

    PPS, LOVE seeing Maddie in that bib : )

  4. I really appreciate your honesty and your guts in posting this. I would much rather read about and see real life in action. I tend to skip reading posts that seem too perfect. They just make me feel inferior, and who needs that!

  5. Oh Jen, thank you for your honesty and a glimpse in to how hectic and crazy life is. I too have been struggling with this sense of it all having to be perfect before I can share on the web and lately have been unmotivated but this past week I realized that I need to be honest with myself and my readers. Thank you for sharing! Oh and your daughter is just too precious!

  6. Honesty needs no apologies Jen. I love all your posts and I love that you are so open. The *perfect family* as seen through many blogs is unreal and unrealistic. The untidy homes/kitchens, the fussy kids, the tired parents, and the food sometimes not from scratch is what is truly happening in the majority of homes. It is representative of families being just what they are, perfectly imperfect. That to me is so much more read worthy than something staged.

  7. Love your honesty. I’ve been feeling serious guilt about not even keeping up with my blog lately because of the time it takes to photograph, arrange, try to make everything perfect. It’s hard enough to even get dinner on the table most nights, much less write a recipe, a post, edit photos, etc. I’ve felt that if it wasn’t all put together “properly”, it wasn’t worth doing a post on. Now it’s months later and I still haven’t posted. I’m glad you said this. Thanks.

  8. Isn’t a crazy spot we have put ourselves in, trying to ‘keep up with the Jones’s” who are only connected to use via the web? Good for you for being honest. That makes you more trustworthy, not less qualified. And besides — this is how Saturday meals are supposed to be: done in the midst of living.

  9. Actually Jen, I think this IS perfect. Those folks that only paint that setting of perfection seem totally saccharine to me; we tend to feel we can’t live up to that standard when in fact I’m sure it’s an artificial standard.

    I use Bisquick, frozen pizza dough and have never even considered making my own puff pastry. I wonder how many more people relate to that than if I tried to make everyone believe I do EVERYTHING from scratch. I do believe I’ve even admitted I’ve had Cheerios for dinner…makes your pizza look fantastic!

    Your daughter is adorable…that’s all that really matters.

  10. I love this Jen. It echoes what a lot of the speakers just said at the Big Traveling Potluck (wish you had been there). We are bloggers – not superhumans. We can’t expect perfection from ourselves because it isn’t possible or even authentic.

    A virtual pinch to those chubby little Madison cheeks. She’s such a little doll!

  11. thanks for sharing and so happy you’re just like the rest of us – life doesn’t always go as planned – ADAPT – which you continue to do! Enjoy your beautiful daughter!

  12. Good for you :) No one’s life meets their ideal every day – sometimes it’s hard to realize that looking at blogs LOL – you probably validated an awful lot of struggling moms with this post!
    And how ADORABLE is that little girl???????!

  13. I love your honesty :) life gets in everyones way sometimes and we all need to be able to admit it, sometimes I even order out for pizza *gasp* ;) Oh, and your baby girl is just the cutest thing ever!

  14. “Perhaps the reason that I have had so little inspiration to write lately is that I am trying to maintain an image that isn’t mine.”

    You put into words what I’ve been feeling for a long time. While I’m publishing posts with more regularity now, I still struggle in maintaining my own voice and my own creative style (in terms of photography). Thanks for being honest and for reminding me that being ME is perfectly fine.

    PS. I use store-bought pizza dough AND canned sauce on Pizza Night. Haven’t made the jump to homemade just yet. ;-)

  15. Jen Hi, first of all nap or no your sweet baby is so cute! she reminds me of my niece and trust me on this i couldn’t get that one to take a nap either shes grown now and has a baby of her own that wont take naps!!! (karma), two i just found your blog, i too am trying to be all organic because of the fake additives and other junk main stream foods have now, i shop at Whole Foods but my niece she can’t because her small town doesn’t have one and my great nephew has decided he doesn’t like non organic food! can’t blame the little man- anyhoo- since its just me i take “shortcuts” and premade pizza and marinara sauce is one of them, along with picking up dough at Whole foods from time to time on the days i forget to cold rise pizza dough in the fridge overnight. since i started cooking from scratch i know sometimes it takes time, what i look for in recipes is the use in non processed foods and something that screams ” ooh make this” i appreciate all the hard work you bloggers put in your posts and i thank you for your honesty.. :)

  16. Jen, thank you for this post! I’ve been feeling down about blogging lately, because I feel like so many other food bloggers out there are doing it bigger and better than me…and because I don’t want to compromise my values or be something I’m not, I’ll never be as popular. But, as you said, I’ve begun to accept that I’m OK with that. I’d so much rather hang out with people who don’t have it all together anyway…the wonderfully weird and imperfect people are the ones I’m interested hanging out with, because they’re the most fun. :-)