My secret ingredient is not a food item. It is a little white lie.
My children grew up eating homemade macaroni and cheese every Monday night. There is nothing special about my macaroni and cheese, It is a classic dish from my favorite cookbook. The only addition is hot dogs and a little white lie.
Cooking did not come naturally to me. I worked really hard to plan meals that were manageable and tasty. I took a lot of pride in keeping to our traditional family value of sitting down and having dinner together at the table.
All four of us had different taste buds. It is hard to believe we are all from the same family. Thankfully, ALL of us equally enjoyed my homemade mac and cheese. There were no sighs when seeing an ingredient they did not like. The rule was you had to eat the meal how it was prepared.
Soon, after-school activities began competing for our time and money. Household repairs and job stress added a lot of tension to the changing relationships in our family. I looked forward to the weekly meal of mac and cheese. There’s just something about cheesy carbs that helped my family to reconnect.
Our daughter was in high school when she decided hot dogs were no longer something she wanted to eat. Our family was trying to cope with all the change that comes with children wanting more independence. College was in sight and my daughter was ready to cut those apron strings. This caused the “hot dog issue” to magnify the changing dynamics in our family.
Hot dogs had to stay in the dish. My daughter was not allowed to pick them out. I was not about to give up our peaceful Monday dinners because of a pig by-product. I had to get creative and figure out what to do.
The solution was a little white lie.
Recently, my daughter and her soon-to-be husband came to visit us. She had one request, “can you make us mac and cheese?” When I noticed her looking for the hotdogs, I knew her thoughts, “what mom makes for dinner is what you eat”. I could sense she was trying to figure out how to avoid the hotdogs. No matter how old your children are, they are still your children. I had her back.
As I sat down I asked her, “Did you ever wonder why you never had hotdogs? I always made sure one part of the dish was hotdog-free. It is just using a bit of skill when you mix them in!”
The room got quiet. My daughter was staring at my husband. My future son-in-law was staring at my daughter. My husband was just looking at his plate. I started to explain how it was an easy way to keep everyone happy when my husband picked up his fork and said, “Thank you! I’m so glad you did that. I love the hotdogs.”
The real secret ingredient for my mac and cheese isn’t anything edible. It is the simple love of a wife and a mother. The love that tries to find loopholes in family rules to make a daughter’s meal more enjoyable.
I think it may be the one ingredient that we all need to use more often. Love, it tastes good with everything.