When I was a kid, eating out was really a treat. Literally twice a year going to a restaurant. It was always for a special occasion and we always got dressed up to go. Fast food didn’t exist back then the way it was now and our budget didn’t accommodate it even if it had.
One of my fondest memories when I was young was when my Mom and Grandma joined a daytime bowling league. That meant on Thursdays I couldn’t come home for lunch. There was a pizza place on the corner across from our school. So rather than packing a lunch for me, every Thursday I was given forty-five cents so I could get a slice of pizza and a soda. Yes, I spelled that out so you wouldn’t think was a typo.
It was awesome at the ripe old age of 8 to have money and be able to go spend it unsupervised, not to mentioned getting to “dine out” with friends. It really was a treat. As a side note, it turned into a life skill since neither my mother or sister would eat in a restaurant alone as adults.
As I’ve told you before, my mom was the Queen of Frugalites, or as she called it, being a skutch (rhymes with butch). I still don’t know if she made the word up of or if it was one of those words from the German relatives. My mom learned when she was young that it was okay to be poor as long as you didn’t know it and didn’t act like it.
Since eating out was such a novelty for us, she decided to instill the family tradition of “restaurant night”. You got to order from “the menu”, which was a list of the leftovers in the fridge. It was the only time we could all eat something different for dinner!
My sister and I are five years apart so we each enjoyed the novelty (in separate intervals of course) of playing restaurant.. setting the “dining room” (kitchen table in a tiny kitchen), sometimes even utilizing Mom’s “formal dining room” (the living room with a card table set up. Sometimes something as simple as lighting a candle on the table or some dime store fake flowers.
We would go all out, preparing the menu board and taking orders on an order pad (practicing writing and spelling), helping with the preparation (aka reheating – a big deal pre-microwave), serving the individual plates, and then having Mom sit down so she could be served as well. It was also the only time that she wasn’t the last one at the table.
My mom would have made a great homeschooler and greatly regretted not having the opportunity to do that with me and my sister. As such she was very involved with my daughter’s own homeschooling, even planning their own field trips. She got us very involved in the kitchen starting at three years old… scrambling eggs, making pancakes & grilled cheese and washing dishes, all while standing on a chair. I’ve done the same with my daughter as well. At 16 years old she cooked Thanksgiving dinner by herself and it was AMAZING!
I’m now back in a position of eating out on rare occasion, now due to location. With no little ones to play/school with and pass this on, I’ve now taking a new turn on “restaurant night”.
I worked in restaurants for years and have my certification in gourmet cooking and catering. While everyone is busy watching reality shows and sports, I watch Food Network… mostly for different ideas. I can cook my butt off so to speak, but even for me there’s the difference between everyday meals and “special occasion” meals.
So now every few weeks I’m doing my own spin on the “restaurant night” that Mom started all those years ago, only now it’s restaurant quality food. For a while my hubby & I referred to it as “expensive meat night”. Still cheaper than eating out even though it’s a bit outside of the normal grocery budget.
A few weeks back I made boeuf bourguignon (beef burgundy – it’s a traditional French beef stew) over mashed potatoes with crusty bread. Last night I made apple maple pork chops with a mustard cream sauce and served it with sweet potato & bacon hash and a sauteed slaw with apples, sweet onion and caraway. (That’s the picture at the top.)
I’ll post recipes later. In the meantime, if you have short people in the house – have fun with them! Get them involved in the cooking and everything else. Playing is the best way to learn (and if it cleans out the fridge in the process, who’s going to complain?)
I’m not sure what’ll be next on my menu for restaurant night, it hasn’t popped in my head yet. When it does, I know we’ll have a great time enjoying it!