Those who are intimately familiar with my meal plans know that Friday is Fend Night in my house. “Fend” is a term coined by my mother years ago, when I was a kid — it means that every member of the household forages through leftovers and pantry staples to figure out dinner for him or herself. Of course, my kids are still too little to do this, so “fend” in our house generally just means either leftovers or Mommy magics something together for them, but the point is, I’m not supposed to have to 1) buy anything to prepare for fend night; or 2) do much cooking, if any.
It works well. It ALWAYS works well. With as much cooking as I do, we’re almost guaranteed to have leftovers kicking around on Friday. There’s no way we can eat everything I make all week long. Right?
Wrong. Tonight: Fend Night FAIL. I can’t believe it, but here’s the roundup from the meal plan:
Monday, 11/15: Turkey tamale pie, avocado salad, fruit platter
We ate it. I mean, not all in one sitting, but the tamale pie ended up being lunch for me and J. twice this week. Gone, gone, gone.
Tuesday, 11/16: Slow cooker — honey-mustard chicken sandwiches, veggie platter, crispy potato rounds
Ate it. There was some leftover chicken, but the kids had it for lunch. Veggies: gone by the end of dinner. And we didn’t end up doing potato rounds; we did steamed carrots with honey butter (which were finished up in the kids’ lunches, as well) and a plate of sliced oranges and bananas. Gone.
Wednesday, 11/17: Breakfast for dinner (may do baked eggs and fruit cobbler)
Ate, ate, ate it all. I purposely made a ton of food, too: shirred eggs, baked pumpkin pudding, bacon, fruit platter, and apple-oatmeal pancakes. By the end of dinner, a couple of pancakes was all that remained of the feast. L. looked at me, a gleam in his eye, and said, “How about pancake sandwiches in my lunch tomorrow?” Gone, gone, gone, gone, gone.
Thursday, 11/18: Ravioli with marinara, salad, homemade bread
You guessed it. Ate it. There was a little ravioli left, but I had the shock of my life: L., who has historically not been a big fan, asked me if I could put the leftover ravioli in his lunchbox for today. In his Spiderman thermos. With salad, bread, and applesauce. (Seriously???? Score one for Mommy!) And there’s marinara left, but I’m either using that to make some calzones this weekend or as a base for the Cioppino we’re having for Sunday dinner.
Friday, 11/19: Fend night
Um, yeah, right.
Luckily, I think fast. And luckily, my husband is not picky. And luckily, I do usually have SOMETHING in the house which, if not exactly meal-ready, can be transformed with a little thought and, frankly, desperation.
L. actually inspired me on this one, I’ll say. When we decided to put the ravioli into a thermos for his lunchbox today (I’m experimenting with the thermos these days, knowing that soon enough, we’ll be facing elementary school and the loss of the ability to have his food warmed up for him), he furrowed his brow at me and said, “But not Cowboy soup?” Cowboy soup is what L. calls Butternut Squash and Pear soup — it’s a long story, but there’s a Harold and the Purple Crayon episode in which Harold, playing cowboys, has to eat squash. Hence L.’s belief that butternut squash is a cowboy food. Anyway, he’s accustomed to seeing his thermos full of soup, not pasta, so he was just a bit confused.
“Not Cowboy soup,” I confirmed. “Just ravioli.”
L. looked disappointed, and I remembered that the last time I made the squash soup — admittedly, not so long ago — he actually cried a little when I told him it was gone and there wasn’t any more for his lunchbox. So later in the evening, after the boys were in bed and the light in my brain had started to come on — There’s no food in this house for tomorrow night — I immediately looked to the counter where I’d been keeping squashes and sweet potatoes.
There was, thankfully, a large — quite large, in fact — butternut squash, sitting there patiently, waiting for its proverbial rainy day. Next to it were two apples. Other people might have looked at this scene and thought, “Produce.” I looked at it and thought, “Dinner!”
Knowing that there was bread and cheese (there’s always bread and cheese in our house), I walked into the living room where J. was settling in to watch some TV. “Um, there’s nothing for tomorrow night — nothing to fend on,” I told him.
God bless him, he didn’t even flinch. He knows me by now. “OK, so what’s the plan?” he asked.
“Cowboy soup and sandwiches?”
“Sounds good to me.”
Magic, I tell you. Sheer magic, the willingness of my husband to eat anything I put in front of him. I went back to the kitchen and thought for a minute. The only hurdle still existing, as far as the plan was concerned, was chicken stock. I was out. Leaving me with two options: go to the store at some point today (in between scads of meetings), or make some. I wrenched open the freezer door and was confronted with a bag of bones, which under ordinary circumstances might not seem like a good thing, but for me, was very good news. Chicken carcasses!
By 9 p.m., the slow cooker was working its mojo on some odds and ends, and I could relax. The Fend Night Fail was salvaged. It’s not creative, it’s not gourmet, and it’s not that exciting, but it’s dinner. Every cook should keep a bag of bones and a gigantic squash hanging around, I think, just in case. You never know when the day will come that bears the realization: My children have, in fact, managed to eat me out of house and home.