The Family Dinner by Laurie David: A Review

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Does your family have official “family dinners?” Both the Ladyfriend and I grew up having dinners with our families.

Last week I went to an event put on by Kim Ricketts (Words & Wine Series) showcasing the new book The Family Table: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time by Laurie David.

family dinner book review at grow and resist

The book is getting a lot of press, praise & reviews. I was slightly sceptical because, well, I am critical and kind of bitchy. It is just true. I’m trying to change that, but well, here I am.  Sceptical. There was a part of me that thought “Yeah, yeah, family dinner. Had ’em growing up. Have them now (as best we can.) Besides. It’s raining and I want to stay inside and, you know, have dinner.”

However, I am so happy I went as it was a really enjoyable evening and I would totally recommend the book! Get it. Read it. Share it. Gift it. Library it. Whatever.

First of all I must say that Laurie is a hoot! She is very funny, vivacious and entertaining. And while she definitely has a lot of privilege in terms of money she still seems to “gets it.” I am instantly turned off by people who assume we all have the same amount of resources. That idea usually stems from a belief in the crap notion of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” and that there really is equal opportunity for all. And I’m totally over that fantasy.

Laurie doesn’t do that! She keeps it real & acknowledges her privilege. Yay! A few examples:

  • She explained how she and her ex managed their living arrangements post-divorce to make it easiest for the kids. She was quick to note that she is blessed and that most people don’t have the luxury they had to be so creative. (They kept the family home and the parents moved in/out so the kids didn’t get uprooted all the time. The parents either had another apartment or other family living nearby.) A lot of people would just talk about it as if it were an real possibility for people, even as most of us can barely afford to keep 1 home going.
  • The family also has a cook/chef that works with them. And she recognizes this as not the norm for most everyone and is clear that meals don’t have to be fancy. It is the act of sharing meals together and not necessarily the food. Quality is important too, but a PB&J is fine, as is a takeout pizza.
  • She also really talks to the reality of divorce. Like it or not, people get divorced. And the family as a whole goes through it. Laurie addresses it head on in ways to help the family get through hard times.

Ok, maybe those points aren’t critical to the book per se, but they are very important to me in terms of determining how in touch with reality an author is.  And really, there are a lot of cookbooks out there that are about feeding your family. I kind of wanted to be wowed. I wanted something different.

The Family Dinner delivered. It is different. It is special.

She really drove home the benefits of family meals. Less obesity. Better grades. More resiliency in the face of peer pressure. Less likely to abuse drugs/alcohol. Increased language development and emotional intelligence. While I knew most of them it is always good to have a reminder. Because, let’s face it, it isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is easiest to just check out. However, those easiest-in-the-moment decisions to check out will likely bit you in the ass later if they become the new ritual.

Anyhow. The book.

The recipes are straightforward enough that picky kids will eat and interesting enough that adults will enjoy. One of my favorite chapters is “Cooking Together at the Table.” Pasta, Pho, Wraps, Salad Bars, Soups… all prepped ahead and completed at the table. And really… who doesn’t want things made to their specifications? Participatory meals are fun. Good times and you get it your way! Bonus!

The enjoyed the extras throughout the book. Quotes. Stories. Interviews. Random (but useful) tidbits of information. Cheat sheets for grain cooking. Tips for creating a non-stressful way that kids can help cook. Using leftovers. Bits of history. It has photographs that aren’t merely artistically stylized renditions of food that will never, ever look that way in your own kitchen. Pantry lists. Green tips. There are mason jars with taped on labels in fridges. Food that looks like it would if you were to make it yourself. Keeping it real. I appreciate that.

I liked the attention to conversation starters and rituals around meal time. I like the idea of having games and questions to initiate and sustain conversation. Right now it is easy. The Babylady is almost 3 and really digs being with her mamas. She wants to talk to us. Granted, it is currently a lot about poop, boogers and what piggie/duckie/monkey-monkey are doing.   Or why we don’t hit/bite/push/kick/pinch. And a random & comical rendition of what she did at school/daycare.

Yet, the time will come that she’ll be faced with peer pressure and the world outside her family will gain more significance. And it’ll be fantastic to have family rituals in place that involve connection to self and each other.

No kids? The general message of the book is key even though geared to those that have kids. Mealtime. Be together. Unplug. Talk. Show up. Be real. You’ll be better partners to each other if you do.

We have fast become a nation of people who don’t have time for each other and we are quite ill for it. Make a difference by creating & sustaining connection with your families, chosen families and friends.

For more information on the book check here. If you are in the Seattle-area definitely check out the Kim Ricketts Food Events. They are always really fun!

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