You know how some people just always have it together? Well, that’s my friend and neighbour, Marissa. I like to think of her as my logistical goddess mama friend. You need to practice how to drive, get the recycling to the tip, and plan a beach holiday all in the next hour? Ask Marissa, she’ll help you make that happen and be relaxed the entire time. (True story!)
And she’s that way about getting dinner on the table for her family too. Marissa is the mum to three beautiful children whilst also working two jobs. Her daughter and elder son keep busy with loads of activities outside of school. And her toddler is now big enough to get in the mix as well. Her daily diary is a military operation.
I popped over to Marissa’s on a Tuesday when, unusually, everyone including her partner, Preston, was going to be home at one time for dinner. To make sure it all went smoothly, she prepared her main, lasagna, during the day while her littlest napped. Personally, I thought this was genius. She was able to work around her kitchen completely uninterrupted (save a few interactions here and there with Preston).
Marissa is a cook who doesn’t use recipes. She learned her kitchen skills from her parents and by cooking with a roommate with an Italian mother. So it wasn’t surprising that Marissa doesn’t own many cookbooks, and the ones she does have are buried in the window under other items. As a person who is utterly dependent upon a recipe while cooking, I was in awe. But as Marissa explained, she enjoys cooking and making it up as she goes along. She gets a rubbish dish here and there, but she learns from that too.
When I arrived, Marissa had her ingredients all set out and ready to go: beef mince, onions, mushrooms, pasta, mozzarella, parmesan, butter, garlic oil spray, tomato passata, and some salt and pepper. Another thing I noticed, and loved, about Marissa’s style of cooking was her lack of measuring devices. At one point she contemplated a scale, but quickly decided against it. She “measured” by eye and by taste as she went along.
True to her multi-tasking talent, Marissa chopped, stirred, shredded, and layered while chatting with me, accepting deliveries, and responding to texts. We had a lovely conversation about our grandparents and World War II amidst talking about her favourite things to cook (Sunday roast) and where to food shop (she shops a large variety of places taking the best from each).
And about an hour later (we like to chat), her lasagna was prepared. She waited to put it in the oven until after the school/activity run so it would be fresh and warm for dinner.
I returned in the evening just in time to see Marissa pulling the finished lasagna from the oven. She had already served some homemade garlic bread to keep the appetites calm until the lasagna was ready.
Henry, the youngest, still sits in his chair in the kitchen. This allows Marissa and Preston to deliver his food quickly and as needed. It also allowed for easy cleanup of the bits that didn’t quite make it into his mouth. The older two sat nicely at the dining table and chatted with me while they ate. Preston and Marissa made their way back and forth between rooms and children in order to serve food and manage to eat a few bites themselves.
I was impressed with how well James and Olivia ate. My own children tend to be very picky still. James was very happy with lasagna as it’s one of his favourites. Olivia liked it as well, although her favourite dinner is chicken pie (on the menu for the following night). I’ve talked with Marissa loads in the past on how she’s helped her children develop good eating habits. To her credit, she starts them early trying lots of different foods.
It didn’t take long for the lasagna to disappear, and then it was time for dessert. Marissa had done some baking with James and Olivia the day before for a school project for James. Olivia’s cake was dessert tonight, a chocolate sponge cake with homemade buttercream frosting decorated with mini-meringues, bananas, and other sweets.
The cake was a hit. In fact, poor Henry kept losing bites of his cake to everyone else as they would stop by his tray and slyly grab a piece. But really, can you blame them with homemade buttercream icing?
As the children finished up, Preston started the cleaning while Marissa finally took a minute to tuck into her own plate while standing in the kitchen. Dinner was winding down, bedtime routine was winding up. I gathered my things to leave as Preston and Marissa began encouraging the children upstairs for baths and pajamas, the next operation in their daily routine.
If you’d like me to document your meal time, click here to send me a note and I can get you the details.