According to that quintessentially groovy dad, Mike Brady, “A wise man never goes to bed angry.” And being the real swell, far-out mom that I am, I’ve taken the liberty of amending that to, “A wise family never eats dinner without all its members.”
I’ll come right out and say it: as a family we love to eat! And can you fathom the daunting task of feeding four constantly famished teenage boys? Mmm-hmm. Every. Single. Day. It’s an endless challenge: cooking for a platoon of bottomless pits. But we make it a priority to eat together as a family every weeknight—always have—and although it’s not without periodic grumpiness and a little creative snacking, everyone manages to hold out until whenever the last person gets home.
(Now, I see you shaking your head and rolling your eyes. I know…your family is way busier than other families. You work, your spouse works. You’re very, very important people and there’s no one else who can accomplish what you do. You get home late and often you have evening meetings. Your kids are phenoms. They play on school sports teams and traveling sports teams. They take instrument lessons and voice lessons and act in plays. They write for the school paper and run community service clubs. They go to religious school. They have lots of homework. I get it. You’re all running in different directions and there’s no time. But trust me: in the long run, there’s no greater gift you can give your family than committing to eating dinner together. Even if—brace yourself, ‘cuz it’s gonna sound blasphemous—it means saying no to some of the other tempting activities and commitments in your lives. It’s honestly worth it.)
To paint a little background for this foodie family, my husband, David, and I met on a blind date and instantly connected over food. During our very first phone conversation almost 19 years ago now, we discovered that we had the same favorite sushi joint—and, oh, it just happened to be clear across the country. Over the years, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to indulge in some swoonful feasts at restaurants around the world. We collect menus from only our most memorable meals, frame them, and hang them as scrumptious mementos on our famed menu wall.
Two of our four boys inherited the foodie gene from birth (one munched on smoked bluefish paté before his first birthday!), while the other two didn’t refine their palates beyond hotdogs, chicken nuggets, peanut butter and fluff, and pasta with butter—God forbid a sprinkling of anything green on it—until much later. (But I promise, it does eventually happen.)
Our love of eating profoundly inspired a passion for cooking, and we have an immense collection of cookbooks and a library of food magazines dating back to 1993, when we got married. The boys have developed a penchant for cooking by helping out in the kitchen, taking culinary classes, and, of course, by watching the Food Network and other food-related programming. (Some family favorites are Barefoot Contessa, Good Eats, Iron Chef America, Top Chef, Chopped, and Ace of Cakes.)
Inspired by the movie Julie & Julia, in the summer of 2009, I invited the boys to do a challenge where we cooked every day during the month of August from one of Ina Garten’s cookbooks and together we blogged about each dish. We had such a blast that we extended the project, broadening our sources for recipes, and it’s evolved into our Glorious Eating blog. We make recipes from cookbooks, magazines, online sites and other sources, and review the results—from mouthwatering to disastrous. There’s no real theme to the types of recipes we choose, other than the fact that we think they happen to sound fairly delish. We also dish about notable restaurant experiences from time to time. (I’m told those posts border on food porn!)
But all of it began—and has perpetuated and evolved—at the family dinner table. It’s not always a lingering gourmet affair; the six of us are as busy as any other family, but it’s at least a few minutes out of our hurried lives we can count on to share together. And we know that in the blink of an eye, the boys’ll be off to college, out on their own, and this opportunity will be gone. So while we have the daily chance to connect, we savor this treasured experience.
Food and conviviality truly are at the heart of the family, and family dinner is the key. Give it a try. The rewards are bountiful.
Andrea Reiser is the mom of four teenage boys, the author of Letters From Home: A Wake-Up Call for Success & Wealth (Wiley 2010), and a chocolate chip cookie connoisseur. Her blog, Gold Coast Mama, is a glimpse inside the glamorous life of the premier family happiness guru, and features recipe reviews, fine dining and theatre recommendations in the NYC area, inspiring life tips and sassy rants about raising kids. You can find her on Twitter (@GoldCoastMama) and Facebook.