Eating together as a family is VERY important to me. The three of us sitting down together for a meal is something I really look forward to. And Sunday dinners are really and truly the greatest moments of my whole week.
Loads of research exists about the importance of the family dinner, not only for the part it plays in family dynamics and a child’s well being but also in regards to their palates and their sense of food adventure.
[See here and here and here for just a few sources.]
We are a family of eaters.
Our family get-togethers revolve around food. Anniversaries and birthdays are always celebrated by a favorite dish. We have “food parties” which basically entail a bunch of us getting together to drink beer and make things like pierogies or pasta. When Mike and I travel the first thing I research is food. We have been known to drive hours out of our way to sample a local delicacy.
We love food. Well, Mike doesn’t care for raw tomatoes and I don’t care for olives but we like just about everything else. But one thing I really don’t like – picky eaters. UGH! Having a kid who is a picky eater is one of my greatest fears.
Since my day-job is all about reference and research I have been known to research something to death. That is what I did when it was time for Ellie to start on solid foods; I researched the topic to death. I read all about suitable foods and when to give what but the thing that really stuck with me was something I read again and again and again – sit down with your kids and feed them what you are eating. Let them watch you eat and then give it to them to try for themselves.
So far that has been our strategy and I am pretty pleased to say that Ellie will try (and enjoy) just about anything. I’m not so naive as to think that this won’t ever change. Most kids are known to go through a picky phase but I can handle it as long as it’s a short phase and not a life style.
I used to make some pretty elaborate meals back in the pre-Ellie days. Mike and I have always eaten well and I pride myself on being able to make some pretty kick ass meals on a limited budget. But things are different now. I don’t have tons of time after work to prep and cook and sit back for a leisurely 8pm dinner with wine or cocktails.
I have a day job that puts me home, after picking up Ellie, around 5:30 (summer) or 6:00 (regular academic calendar). Ellie is hangry by 6:30-6:45 and goes to bed between 7:30 and 8:00. I don’t want to spend all the time I do have with her in the evenings cooking dinner. I want to play outside and read books and walk around the yard identifying bugs and throwing scratch at the chickens in addition to sitting down to dinner together.
But prepping and cooking dinner every single night? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
My new strategy is to get as much done for the following day as possible after she goes to bed. Sunday night I got to work on Monday’s dinner. I had made BBQ sauce earlier in the day for our Sunday dinner of chicken wings so I had that to work with for Monday. I par-boiled some fingerling potatoes until they were fork tender and then once cool I put them in the fridge. And I roasted two whole chicken legs in the oven until they were juuuuust about done. Then those went in the fridge. I also shucked the sweet corn so it would be ready to go.
Monday I put on the water for the corn and fired up the grill. I tossed my fingerling potatoes in some olive oil, salt and pepper and fresh rosemary and got those on the grill. I slathered my roasted chicken legs in bbq sauce and got those on the grill (lowish heat) to warm through. I boiled the corn and cut up some garden cukes while Mike gathered some blackberries.
In 30 minutes we were seated together at the picnic table to a dinner of BBQ chicken, grilled potatoes, sweet corn, cucumber spears, and blackberries.
We were really hungry hence the post-dinner photo.
Look at me! I’m super mom! I really can have it all!
No. I am not that woman.
There are plenty of days when I am too tired to prep the night before or it’s getting close to grocery day and we’re rockin’ Old Mother Hubbard’s pantry. Or I just plain don’t feel like doing anything after El’s in bed and instead I sit on the couch with a lemon ice or a fudge round.
There are plenty of days Ellie has mac-n-cheese from a box (gasp!) or black beans from a can (the horror!) or even a pan fried piece of lunch meat ham (the humanity!) but when that is the case we eat the fried ham, canned beans, and boxed mac-n-cheese right alongside her and we all share the adventures of our day.
I know not everyone can sit down to dinner every night. But even just a couple nights a week can really make a difference so I encourage you to do your best to sit down as a family (or sit down by yourself) to a nice meal away from all screens and distractions and just focus on yourself, each other, and something good to eat.