If you don't know me well, I tend to be a bit of a procrastinator. I also tend to have really great ideas, but follow-through... not so much...
About three years ago, I heard a story on NPR about this fabulous new book called The Surprising Power of Family Meals: How eating together makes us smarter, stronger, healthier, and happier. I of course went directly to Amazon and had it shipped.
I finished the book yesterday.
But not because it was hard to get into. I mostly blame my degree work. When one has to read for no fun so much, it makes it hard to read for fun.
The other part of the blame is me.
Anyway, now that that's off my chest... it is a fantastically encouraging and enlightening book. It gives the history of the culture of eating, and how that has impacted culture throughout the ages. It points out that kids are more confident and resilient if they have regular meals with the family.
One of the motivating sections for me was about kids cooking. It is a known fact that when kids help prepare the meal, they are more inclined to eat it. I have heard this many times in my life, and we shall see in a few years if I am carrying through with this notion, even though it makes cooking time longer. (Really, can a 3-year-old wash and tear lettuce faster than me?)
It also instilled that whatever eating habits I have, most likely my kids will pick up on. Mothers who constantly diet tend to have 10-year-old daughters who think they're overweight. Do I end every meal with dessert? (not saying that's a bad thing necessarily... ;-) My kids will too. Children will learn to eat - and enjoy - what their parents do. (This is why most 4-year-olds living in Mexico have a higher tolerance for spicy heat than I do...) They learn appropriate portions, nutrition, what foods go together - and these things will stick with them forever.
That is why, to this day, whenever I have fish, I have peas. Why? Growing up, for some reason, it was written in some secret Nave code that peas go with fish. Also in this code is that Sunday lunch includes roast and homemade biscuits, Wednesday evenings were for fried food (gotta love going to youth group smelling like a Fry Daddy...), and potatoes go with everything.
Okok, maybe I didn't keep all of that. I did not inherit my mother's affection for potatoes... but I did inherit her comfortable, homey style of cooking. I have adapted it and made it my own... just as my kids will.
One of the things I appreciated about this book is that the author didn't make judgment calls. She never offered a model of how family meals must run. In fact, quite the contrary. She suggests, that, if nothing else, eat breakfast together, or a bedtime snack. She of course promotes cooking at home - whether that mean gourmet meals, or things so simple a young child could do them. This isn't a cookbook - it allows you to make the best of whatever family situation you have.
If you have young kids - or even if you don't - I would highly recommend this book. It is a quick read (as long as you don't put it down for months between chapters...) and will either inspire you to change, or reinforce what you are currently doing.