5 ways to justify Surprise me Sundays

In the summer we had ‘Smokey Sundays’: something grilled on the BBQ, charcoal fired of course (often prepared by my husband).

When it got colder, we transitioned to ‘Soupy Sunday’, where our dinner consists of a home- made soup accompanied by a (usually) home-made bread and finished with a home-made pudding (and the home-made here could be replaced by made-by-me).

But the winter is long and I grew tired of making soup. I grew tired of starting a dough early enough to go to multiple rising cycles and kneading phases, especially since Sundays are often the only day we don’t have anything going on. And one Sunday, while I was heating up a soup left over from weeks ago, slicing a store bought bread and realized I’d forgotten to make a pudding, it dawned on me: Why should I be the one cooking dinner on Sundays?

There is a lot to say for providing the meal any other day of the week: I am home most of the time, while my husband is the one picking up a child from swimming, fencing, jujitsu or soccer after a full day of work (and when I say ‘full’ I mean it: he is usually out the door by 4:30am and walks back in by 6:30pm). And  it’s great to have dinner on the table as soon as they all get home.

But in the weekend? Not so much.

So I came up with a new plan (by Executive Order): Surprise me Sundays.

Once a week, one family member is taking care of dinner. I need to receive the list of ingredients by Friday and can assist with finding a recipe, if needed. And as there are five of us, each family member will only have to cook once every five weeks. That’s not all that bad, right?

Besides the fact that it gives me a bit of ‘time off’ on Sunday, I think this might do more than just that. Let me explain:


  • I have worked, actually lived in a house for 10 weeks with high school juniors and seniors as well as college freshman and sophomores. Some of these kids did not know how to make an egg, do dishes, mop a floor or do their own laundry. IMG_3370 (1)I don’t want my children to be like that. To me it is essential that they should have some ‘skills’. Basic cooking and cleaning skills are important for anyone to have.


  • My kids (and husband) are lucky: they have a mother who is home most of the time and runs the household like a German train-schedule. Therefore, it doesn’t happen often that our children forget important papers, gym clothes or other essentials: it’s all on the schedule (large white board in our kitchen). I have always planned my menus for the entire week and still do, so on that same white board is our weekly meal plan. It helps all of us to stay focused. It requires a certain kind of planning. IMG_4490By Friday they will have to give me their shopping list. This means that the person in charge will have to figure out what to make and what is needed. Planning is one of these basic skills that some people have ‘forgotten’ but that to me if one of the most important and essential skills to have. We live in an area where take-out or delivery isn’t an option and there is no grocery store within walking distance. So in order to put a good meal on the table, planning is required. They will also learn that cooking the meal requires some thinking ahead. If you want to make a pudding, it needs time to set. If you want to make a bread, it needs to rise. Learning what to do first and when is very essential and will help them to get the meal on the table by 6pm.
  • It will teach some gratitude. I believe by giving them the opportunity to prepare a meal once every five weeks they will quickly learn that this meal doesn’t appear effortless on the table, that cooking requires work and that their mother (and wife) takes this on every day of the week. Yes, it is time to be appreciated for effort!
  • It teaches multiple ‘school-skills’ in context. When using a recipe for 4 people, they will need to use some basic math skills to adapt the recipe for 6 (yes, we are good eaters, so the five of us eat as six!). Some recipes use grams and other metric measurements (mostly from my Dutch cookbooks!), while others use the American standards. And when it says ‘one can’, how do you know what size of can? Reading skills and how to read are very important, comprehension of the recipe text and understanding when to do what even more. IMG_4481Basic principles as adding this and that to make a sauce thicker, adding this to make something taste better, why not to overmix and when to use wooden spoons versus rubber spatulas, etc. are all things you don’t necessarily learn in school and wouldn’t know unless someone (me!) teaches you or shows you. My daughter already experienced that the math she learns in 5th grade now actually makes sense in ‘real live’ situations. (“If I need ½ cup for 4, I will need ½ plus half of that, which is ¼ to make enough for 6, so ½ +1/4= 2/4+1/4= ¾ of a cup!”)
  • I feel it is important to raise children to be confident. Teaching them basic life skills, like cooking, cleaning, lawn mowing and small repairs will help my children to grow up with the confidence that they can survive on their own in multiple situations. I also want my children to realize that cooking isn’t a ‘woman’ thing that only moms do, just as hanging up a shelf or fixing the mailbox  is a ‘manly’ task. I also want my kids  to experience cooking can be fun. The more they cook, the more they will be able to enjoy it, they will create an understanding of the basic concepts of cooking and therefore eventually they will be confident enough to let go of a recipe and try it without.


Bonus factor is of course that once a week I can truly sit down and read my book, knit a sweater or finally fix that mailbox.


Bon appétit!


The first Surprise me Sunday meal: Mexican Lasagna made by my 11-year-old daughter.



Edith Schriever

About Edith Schriever

I am a Maine-igrant from the Netherlands. While my scientist husband fell in love with the beautiful research institute here, I fell in love with Mount Desert Island. Mountains, ocean, wild life, peace and quiet! A culture change? Yes, a bit. Americans are not at all like the Jerry Springer audience I saw on TV when living in the Netherlands, well, at least not everyone. Portions are big and toilets small and low; I have learned to embrace the cultural differences.