Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Does Serving Dinner at the Table Make You a Better Parent?

On the CNN site, there's an article entitled "8 reasons to make time for family dinner" by Sarah Klein. As you might expect, the article encourages the tradition of gathering around the kitchen table with spouse and kids and sharing the last meal of the day. The author cites studies and includes expert opinions.

According to this article, if you all sit down to dinner together, your kids will eat more veggies, say no to drugs and do better in school. You'll eat healthier, be less stressed and save money.


When I was growing up the family dinner was a no-exceptions rule; attendance was mandatory. It was the time of day when our parents could tell us exactly how crappy their day was, and yell at us for making it crappier.

My husband has equally 'fond' memories of the nightly dinner table. His mom had one recipe: Open. Heat. Serve. A tall glass of whine often accompanied the meal.

When our kids were little, we didn't have a kitchen table, or a dining room table. We didn't have a dining room. We barely had a kitchen. So we ate around the coffee table in the living room.
When the kids were a little older, and we finally bought a house, my husband worked second shift. The kids didn't want to sit at the table unless we were playing games or painting or doing crafts. As my daughter once said to me, "Dinner tastes better with cartoons."

So be it. Throughout their school years, my kids ate healthy foods, said no to drugs and did reasonably well in school. Stress wasn't a problem because I didn't have to enforce a mandatory attendance at the table rule.

My kids are pretty much grown now, and if I do say so myself, my husband and I did a good job. They're good, kind, responsible people. And they're happy.

I've read other articles instructing parents to insist on the mandatory dinner table rule. I'm not against such dinners. We occasionally gather together and share a meal at the table. It's not a miraculous moment, though. It's just dinner.

What I object to is how these so-called experts insist on making ordinary people feel like they're doing it all wrong. The tone of these articles is that if you're not doing this thing, you're not a good parent. Your kids will grow up to be high-school drop-out druggies who don't know the difference between a carrot and a potato. Oh, and they'll be obese.

You'll be a stressed out, bitchy fool of a parent addicted to fast food. Because, you know, if you don't serve your meal at the dinner table, you're probably not cooking.

I have one thing to say to these guys: Bite me.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Can Dessert Bring World Peace?

When I was a kid, one of the best summer desserts was watermelon. One mom or another always had a watermelon, those big ones that could feed 20 people and had those really big seeds.

As the sun made its way down past the horizon, all us kids would gather on a porch -there were so many of us in that little neighborhood- each with a thick slice of watermelon. We were, all of us, joined together by this sweet and luscious dessert.

Throughout the day, in that little Midwest town where us kids ran wild all summer through the open fields and gravel streets playing the games of children, there were conflicts: border disputes, skirmishes, power struggles and political coup d'├ętats. The little town that was our world was a microcosm of world struggles.

But at the end of the day, sitting on a porch eating watermelon, all the disagreements faded, and we were just a bunch of kids, eating thick wedges of watermelon and spitting seeds out onto the lawn, wondering if any of them would grow, seeing who could spit the farthest. (I was pretty good, but Glenn was better.)

October is National Dessert Month, and that got me to remembering how many times our collective parents served up watermelon, ice cream, hot chocolate or apple pie at the end of the day, and all us kids, no matter our differences, shared in the sweet joy of a shared dessert.

This month is host to National Food Day, today, on October 16th. And on this day, I would make a wish. I would wish that dessert could bring world peace. I would like to see all the world leaders gather together, perhaps on the front steps of the White House, and have dessert together.

Not all dressed up in expensive, politically correct clothes, but in play clothes, and sit on the steps, dirty from playing tag and baseball and from climbing trees and winging rocks. They should eat a whole bunch of desserts, share them all and get sticky and spit watermelon seeds out onto the lawn.

Then, at least for a day, there might be world peace.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Low Fat Stew, Safe at School and Portion Control

August and September have been tough months. We're undergoing a redecorating project that includes moving the office to another room in the house, so I haven't had much time to actually work.
But I have managed to write a few articles and would like to share these with you.

If your kids have food allergies, you know keeping them safe is challenging. With school back in session, you'll need some cooperation from your child's teachers and the school staff to help you protect him or her against exposure to her allergen.

Read Keeping Kids with Food Allergies Safe at School for tips on working with teachers, administrators and the school's food service employees.

Stew is winter comfort food, even here in Phoenix, AZ where winter temperatures may dip all the way into the 50s. Brrr.

But stew can be high in fat, so when I make these hardy meals I use a few techniques to reduce the fat and sodium content. Read my article, Cooking Tips for Making Low Fat Stew, to make your stews a bit healthier this winter.

Trying to keep your food costs under control? Read How to Use Portion Control to Control Your Food Budget and make your food dollars work more efficiently.

I've also spent a little time in the kitchen, working on a gluten free brownie recipe that's rich in flavor and high in omega-3 oils. But with temperatures hovering around 105 degrees, I haven't done a whole lot of cooking.

But the temperatures are dropping, the house is coming together and I've nearly perfected the brownies, so I'll be posting that recipe real soon.