Dear MJ,

Let’s hear it for liking to cook and eat!!!   These are two massive hurdles right there–you already have the fire, you just need to figure out the food.

I’m going to start with the input from family.  Let your kids know that pizza is an option, but it’s an option not a mantra.

Try this on them:

What would the world be if every tree were the same, every fish were the same, every car that drove down the road, the same.  What if when they went to school, they always studied the same word of the same chapter of the same book, they were always asked to do the same assignment and they always turned in the same paragraph.  I am sure there is something fundamental that can be learned from studying like that, but hopefully they won’t tune into that and will go for the prediction that their eyes will start to roll around in their head and their brain will start to shrink.
Forget telling them the crazy number of nutrients our bodies/brains need and thrive on in a day.  They don’t care.  That your husband does is fantastic.  When you make a pasta dyed magenta from the beets, he’ll support you.

I think the trick to inspiration is to find stuff that inspires you to cook.  Ingredients, recipes, cute butchers…off the top of my head the book “Plenty” comes to mind, which is all about fruits and vegetables, and easy to pair with a seared chicken breast that’s finished in the oven.  Other good ones are “Italian Easy” and “Two Easy”  by Rogers and Gray.

Get family members (including you) to make a list of their favorite dinners.  Tape it to the fridge.  They can add to it if they want to.

For the trial run:

Monday: Soup; and use it as a main course.

ie Potato leek topped with shavings of parm is easy to puree fresh chopped spinach leaves into and you could serve hard boiled eggs, or sliced oven roasted ham, olives, chopped raw veg(carrot, cel, radish, cherry tom’s on the side

Chicken soup with noodles and peas.  A classic, but start it with a Tuscan soffritto and top it with a stream of La Macchia, and oh baby.

Cannellini with escarole–start it with plenty of garlic sauteed in olive oil and add a little chopped flat leaf parsley.

Tuesday: somebody’s favorite dinner combo.  Pick from your list.

Wednesday:  back up food–any kind of pasta–meatballs or meat sauce with a big, bountiful salad

Thursday:  roast something.  A chicken, a pork loin, a beef rib, with nothing more than rosemary, sage, thyme or any one of those, some heads of garlic and a few tomatoes cut in half.  On the side is where you can go crazy–saute a few tomatoes with a little shallot, salt and pepper until they taste crazy good and then add steamed string beans.  Or roasted fennel and carrots, or stuffed zucchini, with a little of yesterday’s bread chopped up with herbs and pecorino,

Friday:  pizza with platter of raw veg
Saturday:  kids cook (cold cuts are cool.)
Sunday:  something completely new from a favorite cookbook and EVERYBODY has to be in charge of something.  It could be setting the table, making the dessert, picking the menu, but Sunday isn’t just MJ day anymore.
Every single night, serve a bowl of beautiful fresh fruit.  This is so way Italian.  And if it’s part of dinner–nobody leaves the table when the fruit arrives, they stay and cut themselves a piece–they are going to eat it, instead of just admire it.

Let me know what happens. xoxo

PS  one more reason to cook:  in today’s Daily Mail: “Happy Meal shows no signs of decomposing after 6 months.”

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