I hardly ever cook dinner. There’s lots of willing chefs in our house who are more than happy to provide dinner each night.
Tonight it’s Imogen’s turn. She grabs the huge pan of bolognaise sauce off the stove, and carries it over to the kitchen bench where a pile of bowls are waiting. Soon all the bowls are full. There's still plenty of sauce and spaghetti left in the pan. There’s enough for visitors or second helpings or tomorrow’s lunch.
Sophie carries the bowls to the table when eight hungry people are waiting.
“How are we going to cope when we leave home?” asks Charlotte, looking at all the food. “We’ll only have to cook dinner for one or two people.”
“Yes, we’re used to cooking enough food to feed a crowd,” says Imogen.
“We’d have to scale all our recipes down,” says Sophie.
“I hope your maths is up to scratch,” grins Gemma-Rose. “Fractions and all that.”
“If we reduce the amounts, we’d only need part of an onion, or half a can of something,” says Imogen. “We'd have lots of leftover ingredients. It doesn’t seem worth cooking for so few people.”
“What do you do with part of an onion?” Charlotte wants to know.
“A lot of single people don’t cook for themselves,” says Callum. “They eat take-away every night.”
“Or we could go to a restaurant,” says Gemma-Rose. She smiles at this new idea. “I love eating Italian food.”
“You’d get fat if you ate that sort of food every night,” I say.
“And you’d soon be poor,” adds Imogen. "Restaurant food is very expensive."
“You need to eat healthy food,” I insist. “It’s still worth cooking good food, even if you’re only cooking for yourself.”
“What did you do about dinner when there was only you and Dad?” asks Charlotte.
“Well… er… We ate take-aways,” I admit with a smile.
“You could cook the normal amount of food and then freeze the left-over portions,” I suggest. “If you do that for a week, you’ll have enough meals to last you a very long time.”
“Or we could just not leave home,” says Imogen. “We won’t get married. We’ll just stay here with you. We’d be able to continue cooking the same amount of food. That’ll solve the problem.”
“Or we could take turns at cooking,” says Sophie.
“We could visit each other for dinner.”
“Yes,” says Duncan, “we could eat at Callum’s house one night and then at Imogen’s the next…”
"Everyone would cook the usual amount of food but only every few days," explains Sophie.
“We’d have to live close to each other,” observes Gemma-Rose.
“I’ve another idea,” says Callum. “We could all buy houses in this street. Then everything would be very easy. We could just stroll along the road, to the house of whoever's cooking dinner.”
I think about the Elvis family taking over our street. I imagine wandering down the road to see the girls. We could all still meet for early morning runs. I could still enjoy coffee with the boys. I could continue to sit around a table discussing anything and everything with all my children. Callum could even bring his washing home, I suppose. I wouldn’t have far to go when I felt like a hug… and I would still never have to cook dinner.
I notice the house opposite us has a ‘for sale’ sign hanging on the gate. I peer over the fence. I wonder how much the house will cost to buy. It’s bound to be listed on the Internet. Should I look it up? I know... it’ll never happen. But it’s nice to dream.
One day Andy and I will once again be alone. I’ll be cooking dinner for just two people. Only one small saucepan needed. Will we sit in our usual places, at different ends of the table? Or will we move closer together, down one end? I guess meal times will be quieter. There’ll be no lively conversations where everyone lets their imaginations go wild, and jumps in with silly suggestions. Less noise, less laughter. I will miss all that.
Seven houses in one street? Could we persuade Felicity to move back home? Eight houses in one street? Yes, it’s lovely to dream.