By MARY BETH MAASSEN
Early in your career dinner-time is pretty much the same as happy hour—you look forward to leaving work, relaxing with friends and family, and then enjoying a sociable meal.
After you start having children, dinner-time, formally known as happy hour becomes unhappy hour. For decades now I have called it arsenic hour but I am no longer sure if this is an original thought or if I have plagiarized it from someone—it has just been so long.
If you have babies, dinner preparation time coincides perfectly with the ideal hours for colic. Preparing meals with a screaming infant on your shoulder does not create a delightful ambiance.
If you have toddlers, dinner preparation time coincides perfectly with ideal hours for temper tantrums, and just trying to boil water with a toddler clinging tearfully to your knees is downright dangerous.
If you have school-age children, dinner preparation time coincides perfectly with the ideal hours for homework meltdowns, after-school activities, and carpools, and this makes getting into the kitchen impossible.
And if you have a Monday-Friday kind of job, dinner preparation time coincides perfectly with all those last minute calls and requests you get from customers and co-workers who need one more thing before you head out the door, which means you are not going to get home in a timely fashion, let alone into the kitchen, let alone get any kind of meal on the table.
Of course, in today’s complex, genetically-modified world, you also have to prepare meals with allergies and sensitivities, special diets, and food preferences in mind.
Did I mention, I now have to cook for my three dogs? In their old-age they have developed some intestinal issues and home cooked rice and boiled ground meats is the only thing that keeps their reconstituted meals from showing up on my floor and rugs.
And did I mention, last week I arrived home late as usual, rushed directly to the kitchen, prepared a reasonably-balanced three course meal, and then sat down at the table to eat. That was the moment I realized I had not taken the time to remove my coat and indeed, my purse was still hanging from my shoulder. Heavy sigh.
In the meantime we are bombarded with cooking shows, nutrition experts, and family relationship professionals who proclaim the virtues of sitting down every evening for a healthy family meal and chatting with each other about the activities of day. What kind of world do those people live in?
Obviously, they live in a world with lots of great take-out. So, this week I am encouraging myself to slow down. Plan ahead. And ORDER OUT.
There are a few restaurants in Los Alamos that cater to the to-go crowd. The Secret City Kitchen (www.secretcitykitchen.com) provides to-go family meals on Wednesdays, and now we have Sirpheys that provides innovative take-out evening meals (www.sirpheys.com). Smith’s and the Food Co-op both have entrees to go.
You can also surf online menus and pick up a to-go box at most restaurants in town. This might give me time to enjoy a glass of wine before my dinner—in true happy hour style.