28 responses to “The Imperfect Family Kitchen”

  1. Carrie

    All true. All real. Sing it! We live it! Down with idealized food coverage. 🙂

  2. MyKidsEatSquid

    So true. I had a neighbor with a gorgeous garden that I was eying enviously one day and she told me–“Don’t worry about having a garden, one day you can. Right now, you’re growing children.” I try to live by that–and the disorganization that is my pantry, refrigerator, freezer…

  3. Monica Bhide

    what a terrific piece. I feel like this on many days. I burned my dinner last night.. so, yes, happens all the time!

  4. Gillian

    Amen to this, Debbie. The exhaustion that sets in around here sometimes is humbling and I dream of having a Pinterest-worthy kitchen. Thank you for writing this. I’d love to get coffee some time. – Gillian

  5. Barbara O'Neal

    This is so great and thank you for the picture of your kitchen. My cabinets are 80s, the floor big white tiles that keep breaking lately, but redoing them would mean replacing the entire downstairs area and that’s a heap o’ cash.

    Off to tweet!

  6. Andrea B.

    Thank you for your honesty! I love to look at home magazines, yet I’m starting to get really sick of reading about the perfect couple with their perfect children, eating the perfect meal (in their perfect house!). It’s lovely to see something real for a change. By the way, I loved your cookbook–it really helped me out after my son was born. Thanks!! P.S. I gave up Pinterest a month ago and I’ve never felt better.

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  8. Michelle

    I have two picky kids and hundreds of cookbooks, a truly ridiculous amount. But yours is one of my very favorites! Please keep doing what you are so good at. I will look forward to that second book!

  9. Betty Ann Quirino @Mango_Queen

    What a great article. Finally, a food writer has come forward with an authentic, candid illustration of what our kitchens and lives really are. There is no perfect kitchen, no perfect dish, no perfect life and you captured it well for all of us. While we’re on the topic, can someone please tell everyone reading our articles that we only cook for 2 and not 200 when we develop recipes? Some folks think we cook like caterers. Thanks for sharing this piece, Debbie!

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  12. Joy @ WhatIWeighToday

    You should see my kitchen, Debbie. It’s a full on disaster area 99% of the time. And my fridge–yikes! I have these thoughts all the time though. That’s why I try hard not to over edit or pretty up representations of my life on the internet but of course there are some things I leave out. Don’t beat yourself up about the picky offspring. If you could see how stubbornly picky I was as a kid you would feel better. Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do about a picky kid.

  13. Wendy Read

    Loved this piece! Great writing and so terribly frank 🙂 Well done you, I can so relate. Raw!

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  15. Annie

    I want to read that cookbook! For real–please write it. All us imperfect moms who hate to cook would be grateful.

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  17. Jenna

    I’ve been enjoying the thoughtful responses to that article – yours, Jenny Rosenstrach’s, Luisa’s at Wednesday Chef all come to mind. I personally like to cook and have enjoyed it my whole life, although I’ve only been good at it for the last two years, and it was having my son that really got me to practice at frequent home cooking (which is really important, in my mind: to enjoy doing something, it helps to do it well; to do something well, it helps to practice; some people don’t get there and that’s fine). You three, among others, have all helped me and I appreciate it!

    I found Heffernan’s article to be somewhat sensationalist. She seems to think that her experience and feelings should be universal. I can’t even start to discuss her feminist/anti feminist slant – I was a women’s studies minor in college so I have so very many things to say there and a comment on a blog post just isn’t the place.

    But here’s what it all comes down to, in my mind: Everyone needs to eat (even parents, ha!). Not everyone can afford to eat out all the time, and not everyone enjoys that experience, not everyone can even afford the Amy’s burritos that she mentions. Not everyone trusts a corporation to prepare their food or enjoys the taste of commercially produced food. Some people find their health or weight suffers when they aren’t directly in charge of what they eat. Some people aren’t interested in paying a premium to have the work done for them. Some people, for no other reason, get satisfaction from doing something themselves just because they can. The option for those people, frequently, is home cooking. Belittling this option seems rather elitist and wrong. I’m sorry Virginia feels that the way I’ve chosen to live my life makes her life choices any less valid but I’m not going to do anything differently to make her feel better.

  18. JaneEYB

    It is a long way off for you, but cooking becomes a joy again after the picky eater kids leave for college. And I divorced the picky eater husband! Living on my own I cook exactly what I want to eat each night and if I don’t feel like cooking, no-one complains. My kitchen is as spotless or messy as I want it to be.

    The daily grind of churning out meals for a family can sap energy and creativity for anyone, especially if you work outside the home. But I want to give you hope!

  19. Anna

    I love to cook, it is one of my important creative outlets. I don’t spend as much time or creativity in the kitchen as I used to since my 16 month old is not always content to play in the cupboards while I am cooking. I admit to being guilty of pointing out how easy cooking can be but I do wish we could all embrace imperfection more. Thanks for sharing yours! Our every day meals and kitchen messes will probably never be worthy of the pages of a cookbook, but I wish we could focus more on how we are all in this together: the messes, the busy days, the mundane tasks are things we all encounter so let’s talk more about how to get through them and enjoy food.

  20. Amy

    I’m laughing because we have the same ugly cabinets (though not pink) with matching fabric wallpaper and a picky eater who has a stash of Mac and cheese for those days when I just can’t handle another fight about what she isn’t going to eat tonight. We go through weeks where I just can’t muster the energy to try new things because it isn’t worth the effort do the tried and true staples just have to do.
    Hang in there!

  21. Rachel

    As a fledling food writer (on and off for 2.5 years), this piece spoke to me. One of the first things I learned how to do was to stage the food in a way that hid the pile of dirty dishes still sitting on the counter. Readers shouldn’t know that my life is a mess – only that the food is pretty.

    Cooking for children is an exercise in frustration. There was the time my then-4-yr-old daughter told me the “best dinner ever” was when I mixed a can of black beans with some still-frozen peas (neither heated). My current philosophy for cooking is to make something my husband and I will enjoy and hope for the best with kids. There’s always bread and cheese as an alternative.

    As the daughter of a mother who doesn’t particularly enjoy cooking and bought whole-heartedly into ’80s convenience meals, I understand Heffernan’s point of view, too. Especially as a mother who has, on more than one occassion, honestly wondered if the kids actually need to eat dinner tonight.

    Sorry for the disjointed nature of this comment. Coffee is still working its way through my system.

  22. anne

    The imperfect kitchen? I would read that. I would read the hell out of that. I would also offer up my own imperfect kitchen and cooking as a research subject.

  23. Jen Reeder

    Laughed out loud at this line: “That leads to cookbooks and food blogs as staged and Photoshopped as the models in Vogue.” Great essay!

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