Michael’s Roadside Diner

September 25, 2009 | My Jottings

Among the many hats I wear (virtually all of them are rumpled and fall down over my eyes), the chef’s hat is the one I am most plagued by these days.

On average I make about twenty meals a week (we usually go out to dinner once a week) and I am losing steam and good ideas about what to prepare. It’s not for lack of great recipes. I guess I’m just entering a phase of life that makes cooking seem like climbing Everest. Does anyone out there relate or am I the only one?

Breakfasts are easy enough, as all of us have specific things we prefer and most of us don’t deviate from that. Michael wants a bottle of kombucha as soon as he sets foot in the kitchen in the morning, soon followed by toast and peanut butter or eggs and hash browns. I like a small bowl of homemade Swiss Muesli, and Millie and Edith like Natural Balance. Others in our household like cereal and fruit, or two pieces of toast and two eggs, over easy. So when I’m bumbling around in the kitchen each morning (and it’s now dark outside when I get up) I can make all these things without thinking, as if I’m Rosie the Breakfast Robot.

Lunches aren’t bad either, but they aren’t quite as easy for me as breakfasts. I have to pack one or two lunches in the morning and I’m always trying to think of creative twists to making a sandwich or a container of leftovers (everyone around here loves leftovers, so that’s a plus), a serving of fruit, a salad or serving of vegetables, a slightly virtuous snack and a drink.

Here’s a quick lunch that I feel a little guilty about: a turkey sandwich on WW bread with mayo and lettuce, a banana, two ginger snap cookies, a small bag of grape tomatoes and a can of someone’s favorite diet pop. Here’s a lunch I feel better about, because I am on the slippery slope to becoming my mother and somehow think that home cooked means better, which I know isn’t always the case: a small container of the chicken, squash and rice casserole we had the night before that everyone raved about, a small container of my marinated red cabbage salad, a small container of fresh, sliced pineapple, a hard-boiled egg and a bottle of water. Maybe it’s the small containers that make me feel better about some of the lunches I make.

Dinners are another matter. I am managing and no one is complaining, but since I’m the only cook in the house, every morning I have to think ahead about what we’ll have, and I should be working on it by 10:00 a.m. Our days can be so busy that to turn my thoughts toward dinner at 3:00 p.m. just doesn’t work for me. I have friends who just do the “fend for yourself” method with their families occasionally, but again, we couldn’t do that here.

Michael readily admits that cooking is not his forte. If it were up to him to cook, we would have sausage, fried eggs and hash browns for dinner each night. Because I halfway value our cardiovascular health, we don’t go this route. 🙂

One night long ago Michael and I had a rare evening alone. Everyone else was being treated to dinner and a movie out, and we were home and I didn’t have to cook! In fact, I didn’t even want dinner. I wanted the luxury of not cooking and not eating dinner for one night. I gently told Michael he could have whatever he wanted for dinner, but that I was taking the night off from cooking.

I thought you might like to see the gourmet meal he prepared for himself. He was quite resourceful, using the leftover homemade spaghetti sauce (my grandma’s recipe that can’t be beat) I had made two nights before. Maybe Michael’s meal could be featured in the next edition of “Three-Ingredient Dinners” cookbook, because it consisted of 1) whole wheat bread, 2) the aforementioned homemade spaghetti sauce, and 3) grated parmesan cheese.

Pioneer Woman, read it and weep.


He asked if I wanted him to make some for me. He said it was delicious.


I politely declined.

He’s thinking of opening a diner soon – he’s sure that there are many people out there who would appreciate a simple home-cooked meal now and again.

I’ll give you plenty of warning before it happens, though.


  1. Dorothy Sooter says:

    I love the picture and had a very good chuckle. Julie, I know exactly how you feel – day before yesterday – I made your mom’s chili cause everyone loves it so much. What I like about it is it takes care of two days dinner and the rest is in the freezer. I am in a different situation cause Kacie cooks sometimes and they also eat out a lot so when I get to cook, usually really enjoy it. Your dad was so easy to cook for although I felt he was not eating very healthy. His diet is not what took his life though. My dad lived to be 84 and he put his head down on his bed and was gone. His eating habits were not the best but I always felt that he was such a positive person and so kind that when he ate anything, it was his happy spirit that made the food do a good job for him. Your dad had the same kind of spirit when he was eating and he sure loved what he ate. I just now started baking pies again, did not have the desire cause it was what your dad ate for breakfast every day, cherry, apple or pumpkin pie.
    Love, Dorothy

  2. Jeremy Dick says:

    The sad truth is that Michael would like to eat like this every night (though he would prefer that someone else do the ‘cooking’) and I would guess that spaghetti sauce on bread is as much a vacation from complicated life as not eating was for you. Incredible that, so far are we from the agony of starvation, we delight in not having to bother about food! I love Michael like no one else and I have to say (and he knows this well, deep down in his heart) that I would have taken him up on this dinner without a moment’s hesitation. It is one of my favorites. Mike: Would have been better with some sweet young buck in it, eh?

  3. Ginny C says:

    When I come home from work, after a day of tending to the needs of others, all I can think about is winning 10 years of my own personal chef. But my day dream is turning into a nightmare! Peter has become addicted to the cooking channel and the first thing he wants to talk about after my busy need tending day is “what Tyler says about EVOO or how he made meatloaf”. And he loves tthe Barefoot Contessa lady…she’s all soft spoken and smiles dreamily about bistros and duck she ate in Paris (I attribute this to the $150 bottle of wine she cooked with). So I just want to slap together the good old meatloaf we have always had and be done with it…but then look over and see my love with his head hanging down…he wants it like Tyler’s with the 34 ingredients, not including the sauce! I ain’t in the mood and there is no expensive wine in my house and I haven’t been to Paris. By the way, who can afford to cook like that and who cleans up after these guys?

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.