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Astronaut Night and Other Great Ideas

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Dear Kay,
Too tuckered for much else except to say that tonight’s Theme Night Dinner, All Liquids Night, went well enough. The menu: chicken soup (which I didn’t have the heart to puree in order to be truly a liquid), apple sauce, a flight of creepy health smoothies that said alarming things like “42 GRAMS OF PROTEIN IN THIS BOTTLE.” The green one was going to be a hit until it was discovered that it contained broccoli. Ovaltine milkshakes turned the tide of opinion on the meal.
Next up: American Night, which edged out Dutch Night and Western Night.
I can hardly tell you how Theme Night has transformed my feelings about fixing dinner. It was David who engineered this idea, which was born of justified boredom at what I made for dinner. (“Mom. I don’t mean to be rude, but I really am not loving dinner these days.”) We do it once a week or so: the fellas put themes into a pot, and at the conclusion of a Theme Dinner we pick a new theme. So far: Japanese Night, Astronaut Night (for which I served military MREs which were as close to NASA food as I could get, and about which Hubbo complained like a new recruit at boot camp), Vibrant Colored Food Night, German Night, Stadium Food Night, and All Liquids Night. Beige Night is still lurking in the pot.
I’m no Martha Stewart, people. It was pure, stinkin’ boredom that led us to this. And it is, I have to say, really fun. As long as there’s dessert, you can’t lose.
Love,
Ann
PS Free bonus! Here’s a time eater/procrastination aid for you!

48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Thanks a lot, I definitely needed something else to help me procrastinate. Ha, ha, just kidding. Theme night sounds like so much fun..

  2. Astronaut/NASA theme nights have taken on new meaning these days, best be careful!!!!!
    Enjoy!

  3. When we get very bored with dinner, the Buzz Box at epicurious.com helps us out…

  4. Theme night made my hubby smile…could be a new trend you’re starting!

  5. what? no state fair night – everything on a stick? Sounds like you’re definitely breaking up the boredom.Nice work!

  6. Beige Night — spagetti alfredo or chicken alfredo or chicken on rice with a white sauce maybe…Chicken Tarragon is yummy and beige
    Personally I am doing a grand impression of Linda Blair in The Exorsist (? – can’t spell check here – darn) the past few days and nothing sounds good.

  7. That has got to be one of the most flippin’ funny, as well as brilliant things I have heard in a while. My 4 kids would have a field day! All liquids?? I’m not sure I’m that creative. I could kick butt in an all things cheesy though.

  8. If Astronaut Night comes up again, you can get freeze-dried food at any camping store, and it’s just like the stuff you can buy in the NASA museum gift shops. I recommend the ice cream — it’s such a treat! Also good: freeze dried apple slices.

  9. Two more theme ideas for you, from covered dish dinners I or friends have hosted. Z night was a great success (zucchini and Zinfandel, and oh, so much more). Then there was the dinner that does beige night one better: white night (will your kids eat cauliflower?).

  10. For the record: I didn’t complain about the MREs. “Sulk” would be more accurate, I will admit to that. I was afraid that the bagged lasagna product, potato sticks, and off-brand Tang-like drink powder in my bivouac kit, or whatever you call it, would go on a military campaign of their own through my digestive tract. And, um, that is pretty much what happened. I heard that Al Franken, after visiting Iraq, commented that he ate five MREs there and that none of them had an exit strategy. All that said, Theme Night is wonderful. Yakitori chicken from Japanese night deserves to graduate to the non-theme repertoire.

  11. Phew, at least it didn’t involve pepper spray, steel mallets, and rubber tubing. Or adult diapers, for that matter.

  12. Theme Night sounds like so much fun! Too bad my roommates and I are incapable of being home at the same time, I’d love to try it with them.

  13. Astronaut Night might well include Prison Food.
    Okay, I know the jokes just won’t end, but I had to get one in.
    I think the themes sound like great fun, although they do remind me of challenges from Top Chef. Is Marcel coming over to make you a selection of foams? Foam Night! You could have lattes, merengue, and Cool Whip. It’d be yum.
    On a more serious note, consider Camping Food Night, What _____(Insert Favorite Literary/TV/Movie Character)____ Would Eat Night, and Favorite Vacation Destination Food Night. That last one is good because you’d get to reminisce about a fun place you’d been. Pictures for table decorations! It’d be great.

  14. Question from my Hubby — on All Liquids night, do frozen liquids count? Ice cream, anyone?

  15. I can’t believe y’all ate MREs by choice…
    Still lmao at the astronaut jokes too, talk about turning your name to mud!

  16. what did you eat for Japanese night???
    we do that every night with one meat meal and one vegetarian meal and on sundays the kids make curry…… yes. boredom. it`s a problem.
    I`d rather be knitting!!

  17. The kids love the novelty of the MRE. I took one to my son’s school when he took me for “What My Parent Does for a Living Day”. Oddly enough, he didn’t want me to talk about knitting. He wanted me to go as a Marine Corps Reservist. I love the idea of a theme night for food. I’ll have to try it.
    PS – the MRE’s make a good addition to the Emergency Preparedness Pack (along with the bottled water and the duct tape!)

  18. We started “tropical night” a few years ago. In the dead of winter when we’ve just about had enough of cold and snow, I crank up the heat, make pina coladas (virgin for the kids, of course) and have a summertime meal of cashews, strawberries in sour cream and brown sugar, grilled shrimp, chicken, pineapple chunks with toothpicks, pasta salad, etc. We then put on straw hats, listen to Bob Marley tunes and congo around the kitchen. Coping skills are essential.

  19. Brilliant, theme night for dinner! I tried to get my kids to take over dinner one night a week, and “they” once made nachos (Mom, can you just chop this stuff up with the sharp knife, Mom, can you just fry up some meat to put on these..) but picking a theme might be more successful. Hmmm…
    But, whatcha knitting?

  20. Liquid night? shudder
    Check out Chatelaine for good recipes: http://www.chatelaine.com/english/food/tools/recipes/index.jsp?nID=7&pID=33

  21. Theme Dinner night is a great idea! We did that at my church camp and it was tons of fun. Another fun idea is to all get one very strange kitchen utensil and try to eat with it. My friend got an egg yoke separator on a night we had tomato soup! Eating with a spaghetti server is also a riot to watch.

  22. am loving this idea up here, too. meals are becoming, to my horror, the most stressful parts of the day– shopping for ‘em, preparing ‘em, and then yelling at everybody to eat ‘em, dammit, with a yowling baby who will, thankfully, eat everything (but still yowls between mouthfuls). a neighbor of ours who has 6 kids (6!) has scheduled rotating dinner responsibility (out of necessity, of course). am hoping that i will *one day* be organized enough to get that going…

  23. Hmmm, that by far beats our usual dinner theme, “Hamburger Helper night.” But hey, my 12 year old cooks it, so who am I to complain?

  24. Interesting concept. :^)
    Astronaut ice cream (from the science museum gift shop?) is quite the taste sensation.
    Creamed Chicken over Rice (Probably Chicken A La King in other households) is delightfully beige.
    You could also do theme ingredient nights in the style of Iron Chef.

  25. BEIGE NIGHT! This idea is hilarious because what I envision is so horrific. I love the theme night idea, but they do say that a varied colored plate is usually fairly healthy. So. I don’t know about beige.

  26. Is David having a gin and tonic with his supper?

  27. p.s. you should send this post over to Claire and Big-P at Kiddley.

  28. We inadvertently had white/beige night recently: fish, cauliflower and rice. I felt bad when I realised what I’d done, but now I’ll think of it as a Design Element.

  29. If my husband put suggestions into the kitty everything would have either a rich sauce or gravy! I do believe I could cook the most ruinous meal and if gravy were slathered over it he would be perfectly happy.
    Beige night — ick.

  30. I think I would recommend Baileys and brie cheese for beige night.

  31. And here I thought that waffles for dinner was a radical switch. What a great idea! I will have to see what my diners think up. Cringe.

  32. Sounds like fun. We used to have alphabet nights where all the food had to start with the same letters. It led to some really strange combinations sometimes, but we never did serve MREs….

  33. Was so relieved that astronaut night did not involve tubing and mallets. That might have put hubbo over the edge.
    Seriously though, them night sounds like lots of fun. We have a standing joke at our house about the kids’ friends who only eat what we call “white food” – the kids who have grown up without challenged tastebuds, shall we say. Pasta, white bread, and god forbid there be anything remotely flavorful in there because it might hurt them or something. I always said, what do you think little kids in Mexico eat? Or France? Start ‘em young on interesting food and they’ll thank you later. Okay, okay, rant over.

  34. Jeez, I do beige night here on accident! Because they are my kid’s favorite foods, I’ll often make a baked chicken breast, rice pilaf, and white corn. And then I get it on the plate and laugh and laugh. Because I spent 2-1/2 years in culinary school for days like these!

  35. I lol’d! I think theme night is a gas! I will suggest it to my guys. I get tired of thinking up new meals. We do spaghetti and tuna noodle waaay too often!

  36. For someone who isn’t Martha, this is a good thing!

  37. A Peace Corps colleague used to talk about “white food days” at her host family’s house: rice, hard-boiled eggs, mandioca, cheese and milk.
    I like French night myself- wine and cheese. Easy, fast and tasty. Also authentic, according to the waiter at the French restaurant (owned/staffed by a French family).

  38. As an American of Norwegian heritage, I know white food all too well, creamed onions, smashed potatoes, lutefish, lefse, mashed or boiled potatoes. The hardest thing I do all day is decide what to have for supper! Thanks for some great ideas! (esp State Fair night!).

  39. We’re fond of Orange Night here: mac n cheese, baby carrots, orange juice. (Cheetos optional.)

  40. Theme night, hmm? Sounds dangerous. My Mr. is from Newfoundland and the traditional food doesn’t get much more artery choking. Tasty, but still.

  41. One of our favorites is to eat appetizers for dinner. Nachos, chicken wings, veggies and dip, cheese and crackers, etc. Then go directly to dessert. We just skip the main course.

  42. I am giving this to you now, as a gift, because we are friends and we had that park time together that is so close to my heart.
    I have a tiny little thing that I do here that takes all of the edge of the maternal/food relationship and its pressures thereof. Ready?
    “Find your own food Fridays.”
    You’re welcome.
    (Should you feel the need I would be happy to also enlighten you on “Make your own fun Mondays”…or we can save that for a bad week.)

  43. Fun idea! We had MREs for a “dinner party” with friends when my hubby returned from Basic Training. They’re not half bad when you heat them according to directions, but REAL soldiers don’t heat them at all. Blech!

  44. Or you could go about it from the reverse. After twelve years of serving whatever the wind blew in, we actually have two, count ‘em two, predictable, repetitious themes. And it turns out, my older son LOVES dining stability. Taco Night. Every Monday. Soup and Popcorn Night. Every Sunday. Whoa be to the chef if she proposes anything different.
    Of course, one of the big benefits of Soup and Popcorn night is that I can usually get a couple of rows of knitting in between the simmering phase and the “attacking dinner with the immersion blender” phase. (The chef likes Soup and Popcorn night too!)

  45. How about Breakfast Night? My favorite would be Amsterdam Night, all crepes all the time. Chocolate crepes, anyone? You bet! Put a red candle on the table, get some beer from the Netherlands, maybe cheese and crackers…Mmmmmm

  46. “exit strategy.” that stopped me dead in my tracks.

  47. haven’t seen a crepe in amsterdam in all my 27 years…….pannekoeken yes but that is a much MUCH thicker something
    for amsterdam(or dutch)theme I would say;
    dutch shrimp cocktail with sherry sauce
    then something like hutspot,carrots and onions with mashed potatoes and sausages just cook and mash everything except the sausage,done
    dessert would be something like cold custard
    we just don’t eat that special here :D
    love the idea of a theme night though

  48. HEY!!!
    the “INDEXED” person got a book deal!
    SWEET!
    just thought you’d like to know…
    in case you didn’t already.
    you know i’m going to buy that book!
    :o)
    ek.