Connecting with your kids (and the planet) at the family table

This week several family food blogs are collaborating to celebrate Food Day by hosting a virtual progressive dinner party (see my post from yesterday).

Today, we’re in New York: Grace at eatdinner.org and Kathleen at dinnertogether.blogspot.com are providing the side dishes: flavorful wok broccoli (ingenious recipe), and sweet potato souffle. By coincidence (or perhaps not?) these are two of our family’s favorite vegetables (kale, which Bettina served yesterday) being a close third. Yum! Can’t wait to try them!

Now, why stretch out Food Day to an entire week? As Laurie David (author of The Family Dinner: Great way to connect with your kids, one meal at a time)) points out in her guest post on Blog4familydinner.org recently, eating family dinners together is an integral part of the broader food movement (she titles her post ‘Family Dinners and the Food Revolution’).

How do family dinners connect to the food revolution? Laurie argues that there are two reasons.

First, family dinners create stronger families. As Laurie writes, “Family dinner is one of those rituals that connects us, enriches us, nourishes our minds and our bodies. It’s where we learned how to listen and debate and discuss. It is our first participation in a community. We should be holding on to it for dear life, not tossing it away and replacing it with one-minute meals cooked by a microwave or eating on the run, next to our kitchen counter or in our car.”
The kitchen table is an important place for children to learn life’s lessons, and to bond with their families.

Second, what we eat is directly linked to broader issues of social and environmental justice. We may feel (and, as a mother of two young daughters, I often feel) too busy to focus on these issues in our day-to-day routines. But through the choices we make about eating and shopping for food (or growing our own), we can make positive contributions to reforming the food system.

So this week’s virtual #DinnerParty is about creating new habits and patterns in our family that will be good for us, and also good for other people and the planet. Why not try Meatless Mondays, for example? Or start a compost? Make a commitment to set aside a certain part of your grocery budget for organic food?

Making resolutions should (in my opinion) be an integral part of Food Day (sort of like New Year’s resolutions). What resolution can you make that will change your family’s eating habits year-round?

ps Laurie’s book and Family Dinner blog have lots of practical ideas for how to make family dinners more fun. Check them out!

Good food is for everyone…not just foodies!

Adam Gopnik, one of my all-time favorite writers (and a long-time staff writer for the New Yorker), spent several years living in France in the 1990s. His New Yorker essays from that period were published in Paris to the Moon (still one of my favorite books about France).

Gopnik is publishing a new book this month, titled “The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food.” This is mainly a collection of some of his New Yorker articles, with some new, additional material. His main argument is that our current obsession with food culture has gone astray. As the French (and many other traditional food cultures) know, it’s not only what is on the table that is important, but also who is around the table. Breaking bread together is one of the most important things we can do to build healthy communities (as well as healthy bodies).

That’s precisely what we found when we moved to France. In the little village where we lived, eating well was something that everyone did. We were many hours (and, culturally, light years) away from Paris, so this was not about ‘big city’, elite food culture. Rather, eating well was about celebrating people and place, friends and family, and life together. That spirit is what motivated me to write ‘French Kids Eat Everything’: the realization that good food is for everyone, not just foodies!