the fine art of cooking for your SO, every day
so in my house i do 95% of the cooking. there are myriad reasons for this, but i do enjoy doing it, and ms. pigtails is fairly intimidated by my abilities. also, because of the way our finances are arranged i do all of the grocery shopping, so i plan ahead. it's my opinion that i'm perceived as being a good cook primarily because i'm a good planner. i don't like to make "instant food," so i have to plan meals ahead of time. i also pack lunch, make granola, etc., myself. this is a process that i truly do enjoy, most of the time.
however, this annoying thing happens. ms. pigtails has a sort of stressful job where the day can be somewhat unpredictable, and she doesn't get home until it's time for dinner, so i can't wait until she gets home to think about dinner. also, ms. pigtails is miserable and cranky when she gets too hungry. sometimes she ends up eating lunch so late in the day that she is not hungry. other times, she ends up starving the second she walks in the door. also, if i don't make dinner, there are not really any healthy other options available to us. furthermore, i have a pet peeve where i hate for food i've cooked to get cold before it is eaten. so the idea of simply reheating things in the microwave is not really satisfying to me on a daily basis.
of course, like most chowhounds who like to cook, i also like to cook food that other people will enjoy. but somehow my plans keep being confounded when it comes to dinnertime at our house. i would love to hear how other people have negotiated this sort of thing with their significant others, and what arrangements they have agreed upon.
First question. Have you let your SO read this post? I think that would be a great thing to do and a then have a conversation after that. And NOT when she first gets home from work :) Not that you'd be THAT stupid :)
I have dinner set to be served w/in a half hour to an hour of Mr. Tzurriz's expected arrival at home. If he has to work late, he calls and I can either postpone if I choose, or make dinner as planned. If he doesn't call, he's SOL and gets to eat cold food, reheat what I've made, or make his own (typically hot dogs)
If he has to work after he gets home, I expect him to (if at all possible) take 20 minutes away from the computer to sit at the table with me. If he can't do that, then again, he eats alone or in front of his computer.
Either way, I've prepared a meal and done my part, so whether he eats with me or not, eats the meal or not, clean-up is his responsibility. It helps him remember that the food doesn't magically appear, and that I put effort and time into cooking for us.
BTW, so that I don't sound like a complete b*tch, this was all his idea!
Oh, and I do still get miffed when I plan a special meal and eat it alone, or particularly if I've made one of his favorites, but - I never have to face the kitchen clean up, and he always thanks me, so that helps. :)
My SO has an approx 45 min commute depending on weather and if the Soxs are in town. Usually around lunch I call and ask for his ETA, if I'm lucky I get one. But usually he calls as he leaves. The nights he is late I cook enough for two but eat whenever I want.
And there is my mother who said dinner is at 6:30. Period. If my dad was on time he ate with us, if not we all pulled out our books and read.
When you say you don't have any healthy options available, what do you mean?
I do pretty much all the cooking and planning of meals, and my SO has very unpredictable hours like Ms. Pigtails. Sometimes he eats a really late lunch, sometimes no lunch. I keep the meals pretty simple during the week--I'll do all the prep work when I get home and we eat kind of late, usually around 8 p.m. I save the labor intensive stuff for the weekends. Other times if it's really late, I'll just save the ingredients for the next day and we go out for sushi or order a pizza. The system works pretty well.
Sounds to me like there's a bit of an issue of priorities. Your very presence on this forum indicates that food is a big deal to you. I won't presume to speak for ms. p, but there are plenty of people (my lovely wife included) who see food less as a form of entertainment and more as a way to keep body and soul together. They may enjoy food, but thoughts of it don't occupy their every waking moment. Especially with a demanding job, it's easy to forget completely about dinner until the ol' blood sugar starts to crash.
Of course, the best solution is communication. A 1-minute telephone call in the mid-afternoon can let you know how the day is going and help you decide on what to prepare for dinner and when it will be served. But sometimes folks are incommunicado for big parts of the day, and other times the situation changes unexpectedly. You just have to be prepared to roll with it.
When you know that things are up in the air, it's best to fix things that can keep for a while. Pot roast, beans, soups, stews, curries - they can be ready at 5:30 and eaten at 7:30 without compromising quality. If dinner is something that won't keep well, it's best to wait until you know when everybody's going to be around before you start. Just have some quick or cold apps around in case it's one of those days when ms. p hasn't had lunch. I have no doubt that when she walks in hungry and cranky, a glass of wine and a small plate of antipasti will win you major points.
In an ideal world, everybody knows what's for dinner and when, and will be sitting at the table at the appointed hour. But that's not the reality that most of us have to live with on a day-to-day basis. So keeping the lines of communication open, being willing to compromise, and maintaining the greatest possible degree of flexibility become very important.
The appetizer thing should work. I lived with someone who wanted to eat between five and six every day where I liked eating around sevenish or a wee bit later so appetizers seemed like a nice compromise, but he loved eating a full meal early and then having dessert and snacks in front of the tv all evening long. I remember one Christmas Eve I put my foot down and made a bunch of appetizers. All that happened is the appetizers made him even hungrier and the few bites I had just to eat with him filled me up so I still ended up eating earlier than I wanted and not really hungry at all. Please let us know how the suggestions work out, I hope you find a way.