Laurie David's new book I dismissed it because I thought it was essentially a non-vegetarian cookbook. With so many veg-options out there to choose from, I really didn't take notice. That is until I saw her giving an interview about it. Then it all made sense, it wasn't so much about the food as it was the sentiment.
Enjoying family meals on a regular basis, I believe, is an art. Putting it all together in a specified time frame and making it fun and interesting takes effort and skill. I love that David's ideal includes families of all dimensions, not just the traditional foursome. She honors extended families, divorced families, small families, and friends who equal family.
With a small family like mine, it's been a challenge to get into the routine. But because we are small, it's even more important to make the effort. I'd already heard the statistics that kids who have family dinners have better grades, more self esteem, and get into less mischief, but I was most excited to develop a habit that would strengthen our relationship and communication long term. I read eagerly with highlighter in hand.
As I read, I shared some of the ideas with my son. Taco Tuesdays? Rules, such as turning off electronic devices and television, ways to make the dinner more festive with theme nights, and lighting a candle to slow time were all excepted enthusiastically. He was in.
There's a chapter called Meatless Mondays and therein David speaks out against factory farming and explains why eating vegetarian is the greener and healthier choice. Vegan chefs Tal Ronnen and Bryant Terry are featured as well as input from Kathy Freston and part time vegan Mark Bittman. I would love to see her follow up with The Vegetarian Family Dinner.
There are plenty of tips on how to achieve the habit of family dinners and how to make it as accessible as possible. Family dinner can consist of Chinese take out, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pizza, whatever makes it happen. The point is that you are together breaking bread and bonding. Stocking your kitchen for fast and easy meal prep is another great trick and she gives itemized lists and suggestions. There is some good inspiration for getting the kids in the kitchen and making the journey to the table part of the fun.
The author is eco-minded so there are plenty of green tips as well. David recommends filtered tap water only for instance, organic and sustainably sourced foods, composting, and recycling.
There is emphasis on the table being a safe place and dinners being free of criticism and conflict. David generously shares that growing up her family dinners were not exactly pleasant, inspiring readers to create a better experience. Even if your history with mealtime isn't so positive, you can turn that around with your own family.
The book is loaded with shadowboxes, which is something I always find fun. Little tips, stories, research data, quotes, and conversation starters--nice touch. There's a chapter on cooking with kids, growing some of your own food in a backyard garden, and gratitude. It's very well rounded and full of heart. It would be a wonderful gift for family members or close friends. It's one of those books that will likely be tattered from use, it's one to return to over and over. I think it is destined to be a classic.
Since reading this book, family dinner has been much more consistent at our house. Though it hasn't happened every day, we've made leaps and bounds and are well on our way to establishing this beautiful ritual.