I reviewed The Family Dinner on GoodReads and since I think this book will appeal to so many of you, I'm reposting my review here today. The book's official website is here.
I loved this book so much I'm not sure where to start. It is beautifully, interestingly designed—the quotes and interviews catch your interest and make it easy to keep reading, and the lovely photographs suck you right in.
But the real point here is dinner. I was worried that this book wouldn't have anything new for me since my family already has dinner together every night. But there was plenty of inspiration for me. If you went by everything this book has to offer, you'd be having a well-balanced, fun, environmentally responsible dinner every night, accompanied by engaging, educational conversation, fun games, and dessert.
But don't worry. Laurie David isn't trying to make you do any of those things. Mostly she just wants you to get the family together every day and sit down to dinner together (no electronic devices allowed!) and actually pay attention to each other.
The Family Dinner starts out with the statistics about how much better kids do when they have regular family meals—some reasons it's important to bother. Then we go through ten simple steps to successful family dinners, setting the table, a few chapters on recipes (including fast recipes and recipes kids can make), making green choices in the home, ideas and inspirations for dinner conversation and activities, ideas for dinners with extended family and after divorce, and giving thanks. Oh, and dessert. Can't forget that.
So basically, wherever you are on the spectrum of family dinner, whether you eat in the car on the way to soccer practice or whether you have a formal meal with candles every night, this book has something for you. It is simply packed with great ideas.
I was inspired on several points upon reading this book—there were a few really fun recipes, like teapot soup, that I want to try. I'm also inspired to get together a more regular menu. I like cooking quite a lot and am always trying new things, but Laurie David emphasizes the strength of routine and tradition and there's something to be said for that. I also love the conversation and game ideas (most of which will have to wait until my kids are a bit older). And I love the idea of always having one conversation going at the dinner table, so everyone is involved. There were also some fun table-setting ideas that I want to try.
If everyone had family dinner as Laurie David describes in this book (which is a pretty tall order but still a noble aim), our children would be more caring and polite and smart and cultured. Reading this book was a huge inspiration to me and it's earned a permanent spot on my bookshelves. Whenever I feel burned out about dinner in the future, all I'll need to do is pull out this book and open it up at random, and I'll be ready to go again.
A review copy of this book was provided through the GoodReads First Reads program.
Does your family have any dinner traditions? What do you do to pep things up and to engage your children? Do you have any dinner rules? Do you notice a difference when you do or don't have dinner together?