Family plans and prepares meals together


The Grosels (left to right) Dean, Justin, Mary and Zach, with Julia behind the camera, have a new family hobby – crowding in the kitchen — thanks to Ohio’s stay-at-home orders. Photo by Julia Grosel

By Julia Grosel

With all of the directions, life pulls my family of five, going out to eat provided us with several benefits: versatility of menu options, a strict reservation time, less grocery shopping and food preparation, and no clean-up.

COVID-19 has not only shifted the way we eat together, but also the way we prepare to eat — from brainstorming dinner ideas to putting groceries away, to placing the final product on the table.

“Life is so much simpler now,” my dad, Dean, said. “Our schedules were so hectic and changes were constantly dragging us apart.”

This simpler life, however, did not naturally make us all chefs. The transformation of going out to dinner three to four nights a week to staying in every day was not automatic. Too many arguments occurred over dinner ideas.

To end disagreements – and avoid feeding the trash can uneaten leftovers — we developed a new process.

Now, at the beginning of each week, we brainstorm dinner ideas every day. Using social media is highly encouraged during this time, probably the only time phones are welcomed during family time. A note on the fridge lists our dinner menu for the week.

My mom, Mary, then goes out and buys groceries.

From trunk to kitchen, this is a time-consuming process.

“A one- to two-person event turned into a five-person production,” my brother, Zach, said.

Here’s how it works: We set up a folding table in the garage of our Willoughby, Ohio home. Two people take all bags out of boxes and disinfect everything with Clorox wipes. One person takes clean groceries to the kitchen. The other two wash all produce and put everything away.

“Our process is not perfect, but it is ours. So, we try to make it as enjoyable as possible,” my mom said.

Jokes are exchanged. Small dance moves break out. This 30-minute interruption from work truly lifts everyone’s spirits and strengthens our bonds.

Once 5 p.m. hits, all 10 hands are back in the kitchen – mom, dad, me and my brothers, Zach, 23 and Justin, 18.

My mom was once the only one making dinner. We now bump elbows while cutting vegetables, gathering supplies, watching the stovetop, and building a tower of dishes in the sink. The whole time, we find little things to laugh at: a carrot with a funny shape; strange noises from our dog, Marley; a story about a classmate falling asleep on a class Web-Ex call; recalling the time my dad held a raw turkey in the air and gave it life by gobbling loudly.

The best part of dinner will always be sitting down and eating together, but we all agree that we have a new appreciation for the time spent making it.

Julia Grosel is a sophomore at Miami, majoring in marketing.