When I was growing up, it would have been hard to imagine the proliferation of cookbooks that offer today’s cooks instruction in the art of the family dinner. In the past few years, food personalities like Rachael Ray, Laurie David and Sara Moulton as well as other less prominent folk (myself included), have issued volumes on quick dinners, slow dinners, special dinners and everyday dinners. Each author takes a unique approach to the subject of dinner, and each book offers its own charms.
Back when I was growing up, family dinner was just what you did. Every night. Mom cooked a hot meal, the kids set the table, Dad came home from work and everyone sat down to eat and talk about the day. (Paging Norman Rockwell!) Sadly, for too many families today, the evening meal has gone missing, lost somewhere between soccer practice, the PTA Council and the 987 texts, emails and Facebook updates that come bleeping to the table as soon as we sit down.
But it’s worth taking time for family dinner, because, like the fresh produce my mother taught me to eat, it’s good for us. More specifically, it’s really good for our kids. I’d always heard this said, but when I sat down to research the topic in preparation for a conference earlier this year, I was astounded by the number of honest-to-goodness public health studies that proved the point, over and over again. I’ll spare you the academic citations and sum up: regular family dinners reduce kids’ risk of alcohol use, tobacco use, obesity, and even violent and criminal behavior. Regular family dinners also promote well-rounded nutrition and, not surprisingly, better parent-child communication.
So bring on the books about family dinner! Our mothers and grandmothers didn’t need them, but it seems that we do. With the stakes so high and the rewards so great, why not seek some inspiration to get back to the dinner table together? Let me know what you think?