Life Advice



Ask Amy: Stepmother’s generous cooking leaves out the ‘love’

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My stepdaughter, “Serena,” and her husband, “Ned,” have two small children, ages 2 and 4. They also both have demanding, stressful jobs.

During the pandemic, in order to help out, I offered to cook dinner four nights a week for her family.

Serena very much appreciates my help and almost always enjoys what I cook—soup, chili, meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, stews, chicken enchiladas, and the like. All dishes that transport easily.

The problem is that Ned does not like onions. I put onions in almost every entrée I prepare!

His mother apparently catered to this aversion and never used onions in her cooking. Of course, I could leave out the onions in the portions I give her family, but Sarah wouldn’t find the dishes so palatable.

In addition, their two children might develop the same aversion, so omitting onions would only perpetuate the problem.

Also, to me, leaving out onions deprives this family of the opportunity to try new tastes.

Do you have any words of wisdom?

– Bay Area Stepmom Cook

Dear Cook: My basic reaction is – if this is you “helping out,” then I wonder what service you would perform if you were deliberately trying to disrespect someone.

I think it’s unkind to deliberately provide someone a food containing an ingredient that you know they have an adverse reaction to (or simply don’t eat), with no option on their part to remove the ingredient.

Onions can make some people ill. They tend to add a strong flavor to foods, and so if you merely hate the taste of onions, it’s not like you can just eat around them.

It would be kindest to leave them out of your cooked foods – or include two versions of these dishes. Every time your son-in-law witnessed this thoughtfulness, he would think: “She remembered me!”

Is this “catering” to someone? Yes! If your stepdaughter had a similar aversion, wouldn’t you cater to it?

You don’t want someone’s aversion to control your cooking, but another way to look at it is – if you did recognize this man’s challenge and did your best to work around it – you’d be demonstrating to this family that you are performing an act of service as a way to convey your love and respect for each of them, not just for the onion-eaters.

You should not be in charge of (or worrying about) the palettes of these young children. That’s their parents’ job.

Dear Amy: I’ve had a girlfriend of 13 years, but I am wondering if I should break up with her.

We are both in our late-30s and have lived together for about two years (the rest of the time we lived on different continents).

Because of some cultural differences, we can't get married or disclose our relationship to our friends and family.

I am wondering about this because I have recently met someone from my own culture (she likes me, and we would be able to get married and live openly).


One problem is that this person is about 11 years younger than me.

I feel ashamed of my feelings for this new girl (I haven't cheated on my girlfriend, but I have hidden my relationship with this new person).

I keep thinking about my girlfriend. I think that I should break up to make it easier for my girlfriend to find someone else, but I also think that I am creating issues for no reason.

I’d really appreciate your advice.

– Torn

Dear Torn: I’m trying to imagine the circumstances that would require you essentially living a completely secret life. I assume that maintaining this secret requires that you and your girlfriend consistently lie to your family, friends, and colleagues.

I assume your love for each other is very strong, but – because of your current misgivings – you should have a frank and honest conversation about the reality of your situation, and whether this is the best way for you both to live.

I cannot tell you to break up. It is obviously time for you to consider all the consequences of staying together, especially if you want to have children.

Dear Amy: Regarding the recent conversation in your column about Barbies.

I have loved Barbies since I was a kid. I would invent stories, with lots of pretend play.

When my own daughter was little, I hesitated. But she wanted one so bad!

Her first Barbie was a Dr. Barbie.

Guess who's starting medical school in August 2022?

– Proud Mom

Dear Proud: I love it!


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2022 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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