This is not the post I was planning for this week.

But as the sickness rages on in my household, and seemingly all around me, it’s on the brain.

Years ago, my mother-in-law hurt her foot, and for several months afterward, had to wear some seriously unattractive orthopedic shoes. My father-in-law started joking that she wanted to rent a butler who could walk behind her, displaying on a pillow the kind of good-looking shoe she would pair with her outfit if she could.

A few nights ago I told my husband I wanted a similar system for our dinners—I wanted to display a menu of what I would have cooked if I could, if I hadn’t been falling behind in my work and tending to my sick kids all day. I had roasted a turkey breast that night, and in my ideal world, I’d have also made gravy and mashed potatoes, as well as some fresh vegetable alongside. In reality, we had steamed white rice (way easier to prepare, and better for sick bellies) and some leftover frozen broccoli.

I imagine this is a common phenomenon, not just for parents with sick kids. When I worked at Gourmet, I would quite often spend my days thinking about and tasting insanely delicious meals—and then I’d get home and fry myself some eggs to eat with toast while watching America’s Next Top Model.

But one thing I never want anyone to feel, on those days when the dish just doesn’t live up to the imagined meal, is that it wasn’t worth cooking. It’s exactly that comparison with all the elaborate meals we see in the media that I think scares some people away from cooking altogether. But look. Lots of days the meal just doesn’t turn out. It happens to me, it happens to everyone, and that’s real cooking, the kind we all feed ourselves with every day. I offer you my solidarity, folks.

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