Sparked by Words

Don’t you just love those TV cooking shows? Three-minute cooking segments between four-minute commercial breaks, promising dinner ready thirty minutes after you walk in the door, and the best part is: no clean up!

Yeah, right.

Thirty minutes as long as you planned the menu ten days ago, bought the food – all of it – last weekend, had your home concierge wash, chop, measure, and lay out in order needed every ingredient a half hour before you got home. Because if Chef Guido Cucino has a helper on his show, in the background of course, why the hell don’t you? Oh yeah – no producer, director, cameraman, or make up artist either. Sheesh, your feet stink, your back aches, and you must have ground your eyeballs into the Panko bread crumbs. Plus, the business proposal your boss needs you to take a look at tonight – it’ll only take a few minutes, a coupla notes written, after the kids go to bed. (If they go to bed.)

Thirty minutes as long as the older kid brought home the right book for her assignment. As long as the toddler doesn’t need a change of pants and will stop crying long enough for your mind to grasp what crisis requires immediate attention. All of it of course. As long as spouse doesn’t get home the same second as you so you have five minutes thinking time to yourself (but then there are the kids) so you can make a cup of coffee (me) or pour glass of wine (you?) before beginning the supportive repartee necessary to keep your relationship smoothly coasting. (Coasting would be fantastic at this moment.)

Thirty minutes as long as at least one pot is not in the dishwasher and at least four paper plates can be scrounged – that’s one Batman, one Peppa Pig, one hibiscus luau, and one Barbie (sheesh, how old is that one?) Forget the forks, can eat with our fingers, and if the thirty-minute dinner requires spoons, the whole bet is off – none clean in the house, not even plastic. As for glasses and cups – you can use the ones from last night. (Just water or juice, right?)

Thirty minutes as long as the dog is not jumping around your legs making you splash everything wet and fling everything dry, because Poochie Pie is hungry too, for crying out loud. So is the cat, the fish, the bird, and the bunny the neighbor foisted on you when she took off for a week in Maui (when is it YOUR week in Maui?) because Hopalong Rabbity is so easy to care for, you can just dump in dry pellets whenever you think of it, except it must be today because you haven’t even checked on the fuzzy tail for the last two days. (Or was it three?)

Thirty minutes as long as reality kicks in, so while the cooking show is on TV, here are three options, one of which you’ll actually manage:

  1. Call for pizza delivery, thirty minutes to your door guaranteed. Yes, the pizza shop repeats your order as soon as they pick up the phone because they know you well, and the whole family is beginning to look a little doughy, but at least in thirty minutes you will have five – count ‘em, five – minutes of chomping but otherwise silent satisfaction while everyone eats a slice or two.


  1. Unpack take out from the Chinese or Mexican fast food at the corner, the ones that know your standing order, and open all the cartons on the TV tables in the family room, letting everyone but the toddler dish up their favorite. Except the toddler will dish his own anyway. Five minutes of chomping while the TV blares some insipid but G-rated movie you’ve found on Hulu. Thirty minutes because it took that much to pop in and out of the joint and get the food home.


  1. Dish up leftovers from the chicken casserole your mom made for the family over the weekend because now that you’re out of her house, she misses you more than words can say. Well, she misses the kids and worries they never eat anything but pizza and fast food. Thirty minutes to heat each bowl in the microwave separately and carefully carry to wherever someone is eating – spouse in the lounge chair, daughter in her bedroom, you in the kitchen with the toddler who’s dripping as much as he’s ingesting. Ten minutes of chomping because Grandma made it, but at least everyone’s eating.


The one really honest chef in the whole world was Julia Child, bless her squeaky passion for all things French victual. When she explained how to make Boeuf Bourguignon, describing the details of slicing, searing, sautéing, and simmering, you at least had a chance to understand the labor and time commitment to get dinner on the table. So when you finally – finally – dip into this magnificent dish, you’re disappointed to realize it’s just beef stew. (Five hours after you walked in the door.)

Now why was it you didn’t get anything written today on the work-in-progress?


Painting Trinkender Koch, (Drinking Cook) 19th century, artist unknown

This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.

Comments on: "Promise Me Anything, Just Make It Dinner" (37)

  1. Shari, thank you for this post! 😀😀A chuckling start to my day … you paint such a vivid image of the thirty minute meal — an impossibilite undertaking surrounded by family life. I love the cascade of detail, of life’s minutiae… the Peppa Pig plate, the children, work, spouse … by now I’d have a glass of white on the go! Then the menagerie of animals along with poor neglected Hopalong Rabbity! Wouldn’t it be great to throw these TV chefs into real life situations without the back up of their help, preparation! See how they fare then! Meanwhile, enjoy the pizza … guess that is the option you go for?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Glad I made you laugh, Annika. Yeah, pizza, scrambled eggs, tuna sandwiches, grilled cheese – the go-to dinners when I worked full time and my kids were small. Wasn’t laughing then but looking back now, I do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Now I’m exhausted. Better pour a glass of wine before I tackle making dinner! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I did used to try these 30-minutes specials. I went so far as to stock my cabinets with everything I might need so I could just pull them out. 20 years later, I threw most of them out, unopened.

    You’re onto something here, Shari.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Funny, funny, hope on the shelf in the kitchen, diminished over the years by practicality. I cook about twice a week (we eat leftovers in between) and have found that every recipe takes me at least 4 times as long to prepare as suggested. I must use a different kind of clock. Wish it would diminish my waistline.


  4. Jenna Barwin said:

    Sharon, you brought a big smile to my face. And the painting of the chef drinking from the bottle? Reminded my of the Galloping Gourmet, who sipped on his glass throughout the show, demonstrating the one ingredient needed to make any successful dinner: wine.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wine – and friends. Glad you liked this one, Jenna.

      Did you ever see an old TV show called At Home on the Range? It was filmed in a garage in Orange County to an audience of about 15 friends and neighbors. The two chefs used plenty of wine and humor. I don’t know what anything tasted like but I bet it was as delicious as the two characters behind the range top. They nearly taught me how to cook.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. First, to answer your question, this damn blog just keeps me too busy.

    You made me laugh throughout this thing. Julia Child will always be numero uno.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think you need to do a cooking show. Call it “Cooking Merry with Shari and Pouchie Pie”,
    You do the drinking (sherry of course) and Pouchie Pie can do the cooking. I may name my next dog Pouchie Pie . . . unless of course you were talking about dog-meat?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Shari, I do have one recipe that takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, Terioki Chicken. That is as long as your chicken fingers are thawed and you’ve bought the frozen Asian vegetable steam package that Birds Eye has out. The rice is a package too that takes 1 1/2 minutes in the microwave. All it is is stir-fry after all. I make it every other Wednesday.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Just hilarious, Shari! My relationship with cooking is much like this–I am an expert with the microwave. Also add 30 minutes if both your daughters each like macaroni & cheese or spaghetti–they each liked one, not the other! I’ve learned on weight watchers to have food at the ready and cook a lot and save for leftovers! I cracked up at the picture you painted of everyone sitting around eating take-out on TV tables. And sadly this whole idea does mess with our time for writing! 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hahah, funny post and so true! I have one-year-old twins and keep getting advice from everyone to cook this and that for them. 🤣As if I had time to cook!!!! (plus get the groceries first and then afterwards do the cleaning!) They say the babies/toddlers should start eating what the rest of the family is having, but hubby and I live on junk food at the moment, not because we want to but because there is no time or energy for anything else. If I were cooking, I’d be doing it at midnight… and surely it would wake the twins up! Unfortunately they’ll have to survive on ready-made purees just a bit longer… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, “Snow,” nice to meet you here. Boy, you’re facing a tough situation with twins and so many tasks taking up your time. I’m hardly the person to give food advice, but I will mention that at least today, the ready-made foods for babies and toddlers are so much better than when my kids were that age. We now have grandchildren, but when our sons were that little, the discussions in women’s magazines were often about how terrible children’s food was. Loaded with additives, sugar, starch, and heaven knows what the quality of the “actual food” may have been. I fed my children very little baby food because I may as well have fed them candy bars and French fries for all the nutritional value of the garbage then available.

      You can buy organic baby and toddler food now, and if I were in your position, that’s what I’d do. The baby food companies have finally responded to demands for healthy food for kids, and the selections are much better than when my kids were little.

      At some point, you will need to start giving them real food, and maybe at the same time find a way to feed you and hubby a healthier bunch of meals. There are lots of cook books out there as well as on-line recipe blogs that can help. Plus, you might have already found a few of the mommy blogs that offer advice for parents in your position.

      My preference is to cook simply and quickly, and also to make enough to last for 2 – 4 meals. So, big pots of soup and stews and spaghetti, or foods sautéed and ready to eat in under 15 minutes. One way to make this easier is to buy frozen veggies or the packages of fresh veggie combos ready to go into a pan. Combine with fish, chicken, or other meat already cut from the butcher section of your grocery store. Also, try getting a bunch of simple ingredients ready at night so you can toss them next morning into a crock pot along with a few chicken breasts or other protein, maybe beans, (but not baked beans) and a whole meal will be ready that evening. The frozen food section of the market can be your friend right now, but read packages and avoid salt and additives.

      When your twins are a bit older, you can put on the table veggies both cooked and raw – the same veggie selection, just one prepared and the other raw. I let my kids pick what they wanted and they ate veggies because they got to choose. Most kids like fruit and your twins are probably ready for fresh blueberries and bananas. No honey yet.

      I can hardly believe I just gave cooking advice to someone. I wish you much joy with your family.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hahah, thank you so much for the heartfelt, earnest response 🙂 💕
        Organic food is what I’ve been getting them. I’m an avid reader of labels and wouldn’t dream of giving them sugar or salt, among other things 🙂 Luckily when I go back to work and they start daycare (in November), they’ll be getting 3 meals a day at daycare – the same meals all the other toddlers and kids get over here. So that’ll relieve my burden a bit. I live in Finland (in the Nordic region of Europe) and daycare/pre-school/school always includes free meals (at least we get something back for all our tax money!) So just a few more months of this feeling-guilty-I’m-not-supermom… then we’ll try to incorporate weekend cooking 🙂
        Nice chatting with you – have a sunny day! 🙂


      • Oh yes you are Supermom!

        I’m impressed by your fluency in English. We’re getting plenty of California (USA) sun. Hopefully you’re getting some warm Finnish sun as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I grew up in Australia 🙂 (then later on had an American teacher in Finland, which is why I use American spelling… long story!)
        Californian sun sounds amazing!!! Enjoy!
        i enjoyed our chat, thanks! 🙂


      • Me too – will be over to see your site soon.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Hehe! This was one very entertaining read, Shari! I was giggling through out and felt in desperate need of a drink myself! 😂
    And too damn right: When is it YOUR week off to Maui?! 😄 I’m still waiting for my turn! Lol!

    And I have to add that I actually love cooking and baking and do it most days (and I’m counting reheating leftovers also as cooking btw 😉).

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I had Julia on my mind the whole time I read — & then you named her — have you seen her 1st show? I got it from library — so fun! I love cooking shows that aren’t competitive or that’re only sweetly competitive in the way of that english baking show. also that aren’t gross in terms of over the top unhealthy… such a fun post, Sharon!


    • Daal, I’m so with you on the competitive cooking shows. They “chefs” are nastier than a swarm of snakes, and the very worst are the ones on the children’s show – those poor kids must go home devastated. But the English baking show is sweet to watch. (Dumb pun intended.) I’ll have to look for Julia’s first show. I’m not much of a cook but I bought her cookbook for my daughter-in-law who loves it.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hahahaha. Thanks for the laugh Sharon.


  13. You can add Jacques Pepin to the list of chefs who understand. In his “Fast Food My Way” show he actually tells you to let the grocery story be your prep chef — get the cut up onions and mushrooms off the salad bar, because you don’t have someone in the wings assisting. I loved him for that. Because you’re absolutely right — without having all the food prepped, there is no such thing as a 15-minute meal, unless carry out is close at hand. (It’s actually why, when I get in a cooking mood, I sign up for a cooking class. They’ve done all the shopping and measuring — and they do all the clean up afterwards — I just go and cook for a couple of hours.)


    • Thanks for a bunch of great tips. Didn’t know that about cooking classes. Spoke with friends this afternoon who pointed out that in other parts of the world, people shop every day for only the ingredients they need to make meals for that day. In many other countries, people suffer far less obesity, inflammation, and other health problems created by poor food choices, especially processed foods, because they prepare food differently.

      But I was only trying to be a little funny – hope I made you laugh.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes — it was charming and funny — but also something we have all experienced. Another useful tool in preparing meals is Trader Joe’s — they sell bags of leeks already cleaned and sliced. I’ll take help where I can get it.


      • I appreciate your tips. Cut up fresh veggies from Trader Joe – gotta be a boon to a chef who is not Gordon Ramsey, right?


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