Worksheet I ~ Creating your family's Master Menu List.
This part is fun! Everyone will help you, unlike in the next steps, where you will be on your own. ☺
You will need a pen and a few sheets of paper. Graph paper can be helpful. But any piece of paper will work.
Sit down with your family – all of them. It will really help if you haven’t just eaten something. On the other hand, it would also help if they aren’t so hungry they can’t concentrate on talking about food without getting upset.
Ask them this simple question: What are your favorite meals? We’ll concentrate on dinners and suppers for now.
Now, try to get them to tell you the whole menu, not just a certain dish. A complete menu means a meal with all its components. This could be three or four dishes in the traditional sense (meat, starch, salad, rolls, for instance) or something more one-dish (spinach lasagna – but don’t forget the breadsticks! Write it down!)
This might take more questions.
Here are some prompts to get everyone to tell you just about everything they like to eat. Let them go right through one category before you ask another.
- What are your favorite meals? (Make sure you write them all down! Make them wait while you do: it helps them remember more.)
- What were your favorite meals when you were young? (This applies more to your husband and you than to the 8-year-old, but I bet the 8-year-old has something to contribute!) What unusual or special meals did your family have growing up? What did your pals growing up have that you remember? Oyster stew? Grilled fish? Chicken and dumplings? What did you have with that? Apple sauce? Fritters? Squash? Corn on the cob?
- What are your favorite ethnic meals? Chinese? Italian? Greek? Portuguese? Your family includes certain ethnic traditions: be sure to include those, whatever they may be. Since I grew up with a lot of Egyptian food, I include my favorite dishes, and they have become my family’s also. My husband is quite Irish, and we enjoy a boiled supper with brown bread as well as some old Boston favorites (baked beans, anyone?).
- When you went to a friend’s house, what were you served that you enjoyed, that maybe we don’t usually have? A casserole? Fried chicken? Soup? What did the mom serve with that? Biscuits?
- What meals in books or movies appeal to you? (Think Farmer Boy, Dickens, Dorothy Sayers, Big Night, etc.)
- When you go to a restaurant, what do you most like to order? If you could go to any restaurant, what type would it be? If you could order anything without regard to cost, what would it be? Onion rings? Chicken Caesar salad? Beef Kempinski? Duck a l’orange? Cheese steak? Shrimp cocktail? The last few times you went to a restaurant, what did you order that you really liked? Fajitas? Deep-fried onion flower? Cheeseburger?
- What are your favorite supper meals? Sloppy joes? Baked beans? Breakfast for supper? What are your favorite fancy meals? Roast beef? Salmon?
When you are finished, you should have a fairly long list of menu ideas. Take your list and sit quietly by yourself. If any menu reminds you of another menu, write that one down too (for instance, if a lasagna dinner reminds you of a baked ziti dinner, write that one down.) It’s very important that you try to put them in menu form. If someone says “spaghetti,” try to get them to tell you if they would like salad or green beans, garlic bread or rolls, with that. Don't stress out -- you can easily add ideas later as they occur to you.
Now as a final step, you could put all this data into the computer and organize it by type, or you can wait for the next worksheet, which has more tips, to do that.
Congratulations! This was the hard part, and it was fun!