Monday, August 28, 2017

A calendar of special dinners

Penn asked me a while ago if I could describe all our family Special Dinners. This post is a response to that request!

We started doing these dinners a while back (like, two decades ago), with my first round of kids.  Back then, we scheduled the dinners sort of randomly, and they were all one-off affairs.  We had the "Army dinner" (meatloaf, salad, mashed potatoes, and apple pie, all on one plate).  That generated fond memories, with not much desire to re-enact it.  By far the most popular Special Dinner from that era is the No Hands Dinner, which we still do from time to time, to the incredible happiness of all involved.

What almost killed the Special Dinners for all time was the "Green Dinner" (dye all the food green, so as to complement the neon green ketchup that my step-daughters kept telling me was wonderful).  The Green Dinner is now lives in infamy in my family as one of the most reviled of all of our dinners, although I will note that it completely dissuaded my kids from trying to buy neon-colored food in the future, so I figure that the dinner was a win in the long run.  Not to mention, it continues to be a great shared story.   I think every family should have a dinner like that, you know?  It sort of brings us together as a family to have shared that experience together.  Or something.

After the Green Dinner, I had to tread carefully with Special Dinners.  The next dinner therefore was the Chez Lucky dinner, named after our dog at the time, and it was designed to be an elegant dinner for our daughters and their best friends.  We modeled it on one described in the Tightwad Gazette.

In spite of my efforts to Make Special Dinners Great Again, though, the the Green Dinner continued to loom large in family memory, so it wasn't until my step-daughters went to college and J-son and K-daughter joined the house that we could resume the dinners.  Planning in advance seemed to be a good idea, and so we came up with the following list, which was supposed to take us through one year.  We didn't realize at the time that many of these dinners would become Tradition with a capital T and with my kids emphatically telling me when and how I needed to hold these events.    Miss Manners says that when your kids tell you that you're doing something the wrong way, that's evidence you've created a tradition; that's sort of how I know that these dinners have succeeded.

But the other half of success is that after just about every one of these dinners, my kids post their photos on Facebook and brag to their friends that "I have the best family anywhere", and their friends responds that they're "totally jelly" (or jealous, or something like that).

This is roughly how our yearly Special Dinner calendar works out nowadays.
  • January:  New Years' Dinner
    (A regional meal:  pork and sauerkraut on January 1 is supposed to bring good luck).
  • February:  Valentines' Dinner
    heart-shaped anything, red-and-white reuben sandwiches
  • February also:  Black History Month Dinner
    (started as a sort of challenge/dare to me from my sons, but it worked really well and is likely to continue into future years)
  • March:  Zoo Dinner.
    Why a zoo dinner in March?  I have no idea -- I think it was a random kid idea, but it's worked really well for us.  It's silly, and fun, and not too hard to implement. 
  • April:  Money Dinner
    Celebrate Tax Deadline Day.  
  • May:  Cinco (or whatever) de Mayo.
  • June:  Underwater dinner 
  • June / July:  Also, Purple Dress Dinner
  • July:  Flag Dinner
  • August:  DOnnOr O-shaped food, talking with "O" sounds, and donating money)
  • September:  Pirate Dinner.
    Lordy, but this is fun!   And it's become such a tradition that by now my husband hates the turkey legs, but my kids overrule him.  The treasure hunt is sort of insanely popular.
  • October:  Halloween Dinner
    Mummy face meatloaf, "cockroaches", "salted rat brains", and "zombie eyeballs", plus of course costumes.
  • November:  Thanksgiving
  • December:  Car Dinner, to celebrate the anniversary of my husband's driver's license.  We attempted and failed a home version of a car dinner for many years, and finally decided that this dinner works best at a Diner.  So it's our one annual restaurant dinner.  Go figure.

Having done Special Dinners two ways (one: randomly and once-and-done, and two: pre-planned and repeated), there's a big part of me that favors the second way.  Because I really do love methodical creativity, whereas spontaneous creativity is just likely to fizzle for lack of oxygen, time, and energy.  After all, when your kids start pestering you because Pirate Dinner means the treasure hunt that must be done, well, then you do it.

1 comment:

  1. What a delightful tradition, your kids and guests must have a blast!