Our family dinner ritual is one of the finest legacies handed down to me by my mother, and yet I would be remiss if I were not to mention the other most influential foodie in my life: Betty Eater. When I was 7, I learned to make English Muffin pizzas, all by myself, followed quickly by French toast and cinnamon-sugar toast. After several years perfecting my signature dishes, when I turned 10, I determined that it was time for me to write my own cookbook. I got a small, yellow, spiral-bound notebook and titled it "Betty Eater's Guide to Cooking." Naturally, it began with a detailed, step-by-step recipe for English Muffin pizzas. I filled it with recipes I had made and loved, and ones I wanted to try. I scoured the newspaper for inspiration and ideas; I laboriously copied ingredients and instructions from the many cookbooks we had in our kitchen. I doodled pictures of the dishes in the margins and dreamed of filling tables full of food.
Betty Eater liked to dabble in the kitchen, especially at lunchtime, but she mostly liked to be served dinner (promptly at 6:15). She didn't like to choose what was for dinner that night, or to be asked about it by her mother. Betty Eater was slightly insufferable. Driven by that memory, I set out many years ago to end the "what's for dinner" saga by planning out a monthly menu. I've been creating menus by the month for almost 10 years now, and it has proven to be one of the greatest time-savers of my life. I love the efficiency of the menu; I love that the readers in our family can now consult the menu posted on the fridge; I love hearing them excitedly shout, "Yes!!! We're having [insert meal] tonight!"