Book | The Family Dinner

Reviewed by Rachel Stone


Flourish magazine, Winter 2011

The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time, by Laurie David, with recipes by Kirstin Uhrenholdt
Hachette Book Group, 2010, 256 pages

You may be surprised to hear that the producer of An Inconvenient Truth has written a book about something as mundane as family dinners. But when, as a new stay-at-home mom, TV and film producer Laurie David found herself craving more family time, she brought her professional skills to the “event” of the family dinner to make it a satisfying and enjoyable time of togetherness and nourishment.

The Family Dinner represents David’s efforts to re-instate the once sacrosanct dinner hour into American family life. And with good reason: studies indicate that children who regularly eat dinner with their

I get the feeling that Laurie David “produced” this book to inspire change, and it may yet do that. But I keep debating whether it is the kind of book that will make it into the hands of the people who need it most.

families are less likely to be obese, drink, smoke, use drugs, develop eating disorders, or become depressed. They’re also more likely to do well at school and have better peer relationships. Simple, yes. Mundane, certainly not. Meals are crucial.

The Family Dinner is full of large, gorgeous photographs of people cooking, gardening, laughing, and eating. It looks and reads a lot like an issue of Real Simple magazine, with contributions from all kinds of famous people: Michael Pollan, Jamie Oliver, and Maya Angelou, to name a few. Interspersed among the main sections of text authored by David are quotations, green tips, poems, and games. And then there are the recipes, developed by David’s family cook, Kirsten Uhrenholdt, a Danish woman who brings a lovely European freshness to a variety of recipes that, while they are intentionally not “kid’s” food (one of David’s “rules” for dinner time is “one meal, no substitutions”), seem likely to please kids. There are fresh takes on tacos and grilled cheese, pasta and pizza. Everything is simple to put together and planned with health, flavor, and sustainability in mind.

The book is a lot of fun to look at, for all the reasons that a well-designed magazine is enjoyable to flip through. Though there’s virtually nothing new in it—I’m starting to feel like nearly everything I read that’s part of the “new food revolution” I first came across in the More with Less cookbook, which was published over 30 years ago—it’s still inspiring; I’ve cooked daily for my family since we’ve been a family, but in reading this book I felt confirmed in my efforts, and all the more eager to prettify my table and try some new recipes.

I get the feeling that Laurie David “produced” this book—organizing the efforts of lots of talented designers and popular chefs and prominent figures—to inspire change, and it may yet do that. But I keep debating whether it is the kind of book that will make it into the hands of the people who need it most: It’s a book written by a wealthy woman for a middle-to-upper class audience. Will eating dinners together become the latest thing that high-achieving parents do to help ensure their offspring’s future success? Maybe that’s not all bad. But viewing the images of pretty people laughing over their Thai-inspired picnics in the California sun, I couldn’t help but see the faces of the children I knew in the early years of my marriage in a very different part of California—children who scarfed ramen noodles uncooked and drank soda while wandering outside, with whom I had the regular privilege of breaking homemade bread.

Please do get caught up in The Family Dinner’s happy “green” glow—but while you nourish your own, please also try to find others who need a family’s nourishment. Because the truth is, you’ll be serving Christ. Nothing mundane about that.


Rachel Stone is a freelance writer who has contributed to Christianity Today, her.meneutics, catapult/*cino, Creation Care, and Flourish. She lives in Greenport, NY, with her husband, two young sons, extended family, and assorted cats, for whom she loves to cook food and knit socks. (She cooks, but does not knit, for the cats.)

 

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Read full original post. [...]

  2. [...] It’s something close to my heart, something I’ve written about quite a few times (here, here, and here, and also in several undisclosed [...]

  3. [...] It’s something close to my heart, something I’ve written about quite a few times (here, here, and here, and also in my forthcoming [...]

Speak Your Mind

*