You know what people in China call Chinese food?

I’ve always envied people who meal plan or meal prep. To arrive at dinner time and not have to ask the question, “What’re we doing for dinner?” sounds like heaven. But for some reason I never sit down and try it. Friends have offered advice and app recommendations, still I wander around the grocery aisles every week randomly putting things in my cart that look interesting, things that may or may not get eaten before they go bad. This haphazard method of feeding ourselves has led my partner and I into the not-so-healthy habit of either getting takeout or popping things into the oven from the Trader Joe’s frozen food aisle more often than not. (I should probably write an ode to Trader Joe’s next.) It doesn’t help that we both work full-time and are usually pretty exhausted at the end of the day.

One night a few months ago, the dreaded question came up again. “What’re we doing for dinner?” I asked my husband. “I don’t know, Indian sounds good.”

“Indian? But we had Indian food last night,” I answered, already running through my mental Rolodex of foods to eat.

“Yeah well, don’t you think some Indian people eat Indian food one night after the next?” Snarky bastard.

My mind flashed back to the dinner table of my childhood, where we had Chinese food, not twice in the week, not three times, but maybe for weeks on end.

“True…you know I think we actually have some frozen Indian meals in the fridge. I’ll make rice.”

Since then we’ve ordered Indian takeout or eaten frozen Indian meals back to back many more times. This week, however, I decided that instead of opening a box, I’d try my hand at making my own dish! I only needed one ingredient that I didn’t have in my pantry, garam masala. (I probably could’ve made my own spice mix, but it was a Tuesday, let’s get real.) One quick trip to the store and I had my own healthy version of Indian Butter Chicken, but make it vegan. Maybe I could even plan the next meal I make!

8 thoughts on “You know what people in China call Chinese food?

  1. I loved this slice on a number of levels.

    The food, absolutely, is the main thing. It’s my lunchtime and I have boring pulled pork and peas. Leftovers, a teacher’s best friend.

    However, it’s also the thought process we all go through on a nightly basis: What’s for supper?

    And the part that I loved the most (because I tend to get this from my wife): “Snarky bastard.” 😂

    Thanks for sharing today!

  2. Oh you know I feel this deeply, particularly because of all the guilt. My dad said just yesterday to me – you need to properly plan, Nawal, why are you just throwing something together instead of making a proper meal? Oof. Immigrant daughter guilt. I wrote about this here: though YES 100 percent, every afternoon I think, OMG, WHAT ARE WE HAVING FOR DINNER?!? And why is it my job to feed our bellies yet again!?! Loved this post.

  3. Our dinner plans are usually made at the breakfast table. One of us will ask, “What would you like for dinner tonight?” Often the answer. “I don’t know. Let me think about it” That’s when we usually end up calling for take out.

  4. I loved planning meals until my kids became teenagers and I could never predict who would be home when. I ended up throwing out food and recooking at 11 at night. That’s when I started winging it. Now that they are at college I am back to planning – with two of us it is easy. And i too love Trader Joes

  5. This is me, but with Korean food. As for your ode to Trader Joe’s, I would totally follow your lead on that one. That is one happy-making place for me!

  6. This title is perfect. I too dread that question and invariably am the weekday dinner chef. I don’t plan, but stir fry protein and veggies to go with the pot of rice. Thank you for this post.

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