This is a guest post by my wife Sarah: My husband knows me well. After receiving a copy of Laurie David’s new hot-off-the-press book, The Family Dinner: Great ways to connect with your kids, one meal at a time, he immediately handed it over to me as he knew I’d enjoy anything about food and kids. Upon first glance, I thought it was a ‘green’ cookbook with some information about how to connect with your family, but as I started turning the pages, I realized it was quite the opposite. I became engrossed immediately and ended up reading the entire book cover to cover, which I definitely was NOT planning on originally doing!
Perhaps the best way I can describe this book is to call it the must-have manual or bible for anyone who wants to raise well-adjusted children and foster a loving and connected family atmosphere (and who doesn’t?). Definitely not your average cookbook. Laurie David, producer of An Inconvenient Truth, author of Stop Global Warming and former wife of Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David, is a passionate parent who strongly believes that simply by consistently having one meal a day together, today’s overwhelmed, busy, technology-addicted families can learn how to engage and converse with one another, feel more connected as a family unit, and eat healthier and help the planet to boot.
David shares that research consistently proves that everything we worry about as parents – from drugs and alcohol, promiscuity, to obesity, academic achievement and just good old nutrition – can all be improved by the simple act of eating and talking together around the table. The book is divided into themed chapters to cover everything well-meaning (but busy) parents need to know, including easy steps and rules to having a successful dinner, setting the scene, involving everyone in the cooking and preparing, ways to express gratitude, conversation starters and inspirational ideas from the news, books, and poetry.
There are over 75 fantastic recipes submitted by the family’s Danish friend and personal chef, Kirstin Uhrenholdt, including tips on getting kids involved. There’s also a great section about how to keep the family dinner ritual intact in the months and years following a divorce or family change.
The book also focuses on how family dinners offer an opportunity to help sustain our planet in addition to our family connectedness. There are plenty of green tips, including composting, growing your own vegetables and herbs, eating less meat (there’s a whole chapter on “Meatless Mondays” including plenty of veggie recipes) and using organic and local produce in your everyday cooking.
As if that weren’t enough, Laurie has incorporated personal stories, words of wisdom, tips and advice from a wide range of well-known chefs, restaurateurs, celebrities, authors, poets, academics, doctors, food activists, and family and parenting experts, which add credibility, interest and inspiration to this gem of a book. These contributions are scattered throughout the book amongst the recipes, text, and beautiful photos, making the whole thing very visually appealing and easy to read.
Perhaps the only criticism I have of The Family Dinner is how the recipes are organized. They are included within certain chapters by theme; for example, vegetarian recipes can be found in the Meatless Mondays chapter, easy and fast recipes are to be found in the Fast Recipes section, recipes that the kids will have fun helping out with are in the Cook Together chapter, etc. It makes sense as you read the book straight through but when it comes down to finding a recipe to cook for tonight’s dinner, you’ll have to do a bit of searching and flipping pages to find the one you want.
Aside from that, I found this book to be incredibly powerful. I am pregnant with our first child and already have visions of our happy little family sitting around the dinner table, playing games, talking and laughing, eating healthy and nutritious food, and simply being together. Thanks to this book, it’s not simply a pie in the sky notion now, it is an easily obtainable dream.
The Family Dinner will be making itself a permanent home on our kitchen shelf and every time I find myself needing pointers on how to engage everyone in a productive conversation (I’m sure we’ll reach those teenage years before we know it!), fun word games, thought-provoking readings, ideas for saying grace, how to get kids involved in the process of preparing and enjoying food, or just simple inspiration on how to stay connected in today’s harried world, there is no doubt I will be reaching for this book again and again.
Available now from Amazon.