Some Monday evenings, I produce better-than-usual dinners because I’m on top of things: I’ve made it through the day, the kid’s in one piece, and I’m feeling relatively cheerful. It helps if I’ve gone shopping in the morning, and have nice fresh vegetables and maybe some meat in the house.
Other Monday evenings arrive, and I’m not so lucky. I’ve been doing Good Works in the morning instead of grocery shopping, and I have to be at a meeting at seven o’clock in the evening. Mid-afternoon arrives — as it is, this very moment — and I still don’t know what we’re having for dinner. This is a less-than-ideal situation, but it’s only two p.m. In other words, there’s still time for me to turn it around.
But I’ve looked into the fridge, and basically, what I’ve got in there is this:
a lot of condiments; a pint and a half or so of really good beef broth I made a few days ago; and rather a lot of cheese.
Can I ask my family to drink beef broth and have cheese on bread for dinner? No, I cannot. This is one of those moments when I wish I hadn’t so efficiently used Friday night’s leftovers during the weekend. If I still had some of that chicken sitting around — it was wonderful, by the way — I could make some chili out of it. (That’s what I did Saturday, though.)
Can I make a risotto? I could, if I had arborio rice, and some nice vegetables; however, I have neither. I could fake the risotto with regular white rice, no one would complain, but the lack of vegetables remains a sore point.
Can my family overlook the lack of fresh vegetables with dinner, if I simply serve them a pot of macaroni and cheese? If I served them macaroni and cheese and succotash, made from handy-dandy frozen lima beans and frozen corn, they’d be happy. I wouldn’t be — I’ve never eaten a succotash I actually enjoyed — but I’m not the primary audience, here. Last week I made succotash, and while I ate my serving dolefully, my husband and child cooed over it and my daughter asked me petulantly why I don’t make succotash more often. “Because I don’t like it that much,” I said.
“But WE like it!” she said. “Who doesn’t like lima beans?”
“Well, a LOT of people, as a matter of fact,” I said.
My daughter was unimpressed. “What do they know,” she said. “Lima beans are one of my favorite vegetables.”
Let’s move away from pondering the way in which my child is demented, because I just had a sinking thought, which was, “What if I’ve used up all the lima beans?” This could happen. I’m not someone who buys lima beans in bulk. There must be someone who does, but I have no idea who. Anyway, I just dragged myself to the freezer in the basement, where I keep the frozen vegetables, and discovered that while, yes, I do have two bags of frozen lima beans there, and lots of frozen corn, I also have something that means that I don’t have to make succotash for dinner if I don’t want to. Forsooth: I have frozen peas. One lonely bag of frozen peas.
What this means is that I can make a fake risotto — put in a slice of duck bacon, the beef broth, and frozen peas — and serve that as a one-pot meal, and leave for my meeting with a fairly clear conscience at 6.45; and the succotash can wait another day. Thank god, too, because I really don’t want to come home from a meeting at nine o’clock and face eating succotash for dinner. Meetings are hard enough without coming home to something grim for dinner. Risotto: that’s something I can look forward to.