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Real life cooking for a large family

Updated on March 30, 2011

Cooking for a large family: Introduction

Several years ago my wife and I were told we were signing up for a trip to hell. It was voluntary. We still signed up knowing what that journey had in store.

We were told this by our case worker from the adoption agency we chose to help us adopt from foster care. We had two children already and we were planning to adopt a sibling group of six more. She has been on this trip also. She and her husband have ten children.

I am the cook of the home. The kitchen is my room from roughly 5 to 6:30 pm. It is Hell's Kitchen. Eight kids, six with behavior problems and at least three with food issues. You see, food is survival. These kids have been in survival mode for most their short lives. Food is what our home revolves around. It is Hell.

I am the Dad and I cook. Two things that don't always go together in many U.S. families. I cook a lot. I love to cook. I cook creatively. I cook often and I cook like a guy. Not a chef. Not a caterer. A guy. To cook for eight kids you have to cook like a guy.

How does a guy in Hell cook? And by the way, a woman can easily cook like a guy. I learned it from my Mom.

1. A guy does not use recipes. I can't. To figure out how much I would need to make for ten people, three of which are teens, would require far too much math.

2. A guy uses what he or she has on hand. This is where the creative part comes in.

3. Cooking like a guy requires fire whenever possible.

4. Guys don't cook for healthiness, they cook for flavor and quantity. What are food groups?

5. A big pile of sandwiches and a gallon pitcher of Kool Aid® is an acceptable out.

6. Meat and lots of it. If you're vegan, substitute for meat textured vegetable matter. Lots of meat textured vegetable matter.

I will share recipes with you. These are recipes for ten hungry people. Not a dinner party. I don't measure anything. I don't know how big the cuts of meat are. I make it up as I go half the time. 95% of the time it's a hit. I will get you in the ballpark. It is truly an art not a science.

I will share tips on how to cook for a large family. You're not cooking like you might for Thanksgiving. There is no way to do that every night. Get meat out of the freezer sometime during the day. Glance in the fridge and cupboards around 5:00. Invent.

Side dishes usually consist of something white or off white and something green. These rarely have the creative thought that the main dish does. A great meal does not have to be hard to create nor take a lot of time. I won't lie, I do make boxed - add hambuger meals on occasion. But investing a little more time and roughly the same cost, I can blaze a couple meatloaves on the barbecue grill. This will give me awesome leftover meatloaf sandwiches for tomorrow night. And you'll get compliments. You won't from a meat helper meal.

Mind you cooking has become easier since I became a stay at home Dad. I used to do this every night while working a 50 hour work week with a 2 hour commute every day. You may not have my gift, cooking like a guy. I will share and teach. You will become one with my life in Hell.

I look forward to your comments, suggestions and let me know if you tried a recipe and how it was.

© 2007 Eric Patnoe


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    • Wbisbill profile image


      10 years ago from Tennessee USA

      Great job. Took me a little down memory lane - We always had big crowds every weekend as my mom came from a large family and we were alway fixing dinner. Yummy!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      As a mom of 2, foster mom to 3, and day care provider to 12 I LOVE your easy recipes. I am learning to cook like a man and taking great joy in every minute of it. Thank you.


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