What’s for Dinner?

I ask myself that every day. I ask my husband that almost every day. I ask my three year-old son that on a disturbingly regular basis. I constantly query friends, co-workers, people I run into in the elevator, on the street, on the streetcar, at the grocery store.

I am flustered and tired and uninspired and not in the mood to cook. It’s too hot, work has been too difficult, we have no food, we have too much food, there is no mood music, the lighting is all wrong in the kitchen (and so are the floors and the walls and the cupboards and the counters). I have lists of excuses on my Ipod that I use as reasons to order take-away or cook painless dinners for my boys on a regular basis. I talk myself into meals that require very few ingredients and very little effort; I have mastered the art of toasted cheese sandwiches and my sister even presented my son with a dinosaur sandwich cutter so at least he has “fun” shaped sandwiches in the midst of my recent culinary crisis.

So why do I bring this up? I guess I just wanted to lift this weight off my shoulders and let you know that even the Domestic Goddess struggles in the kitchen. I think everyone has days when they don’t want to cook, can’t bring themselves to cook or can’t think of a thing to cook for dinner. And when you have a husband and child staring at you like they could eat your arm, while you stare into the cupboard feeling much the same way, you also can’t bring yourself to order another pizza, call in another Chinese take-away order or throw money at McDonald’s one more time.

On those days I have opened up my options. We have a breakfast-for-dinner night (eggs, pancakes, waffles, cereal), a left-overs/clean-out-the-fridge night (anything from full dinner left-overs to various incarnations of meals containing whatever might be left in the fridge), a fend-for-yourself (other than Leith of course) night (tea, cookies, popcorn, toast) and one night a week (and sometimes more) S. makes dinner (he cooks up a mean barbeque chicken, makes delicious shawerma, and can even produce a pretty convincing butter chicken). Of course that still leaves me with three nights–most of which tend to be weeknights when we are all tired, hungry and craving something truly delicious and hopefully at least slightly delicious.

Recently I found an excellent alternative to grilled cheese or take-away, in the last place in the world I would have thought. Longo’s just opened a brand new “mini” location at Dundas and Elizabeth streets in Toronto, which is conveniently only about a 10-minute walk from my office. And yes, I know that the St. Lawrence Market is just 10 minutes in the other direction, but sometimes I get completely overwhelmed by the choices at the St. Lawrence. I want to browse breads and meats and cheeses and look at chocolate truffles and 80 different kinds of rice. At the new Longo’s store I can get in, get what I want and get out, quickly and leave with a meal that I know is fresh and healthy.

This new Market by Longo’s location has a full service bakery, a meat and seafood counter, a gourmet cheese and deli section and of course Longo’s signature produce department with fresh, premium quality fruits and vegetables (including a large locally-grown component). There is also a broad selection of hot, healthy, ready-made meal solutions at their take-home counter and a 40-item salad bar. And for those of us who still bow down to the Starbucks conglomerate, they happily cater to your afternoon coffee fix while you shop.

Attending the sneak-preview recently was interesting and made me appreciate the effort that this chain puts into their stores. Longo’s is still a family-owned business with a small green-grocers’ attitude towards freshness and selection, just trying to compete with the Mark McEwans of the world…and though I love Mark, I think they are managing to do pretty good job of it.

You can find out for yourself if you can tell me when the first-ever Longo’s market opened at Yonge and Castlefield. Longo’s has generously donated a $50 gift certificate to one lucky reader. The tenth person to email me gets it!