Monday, January 12, 2009

Splendid Table: If I cooked this every night they would be happy

"I don't like this, Mama, I'm just eating it because I'm hungry," Owen told me at dinner.

Lovely. The child will not admit to liking something I cook even when he so clearly likes it. How did we come to this?
 
Everyone loved Lynne Rossetto Kasper's chicken cacciatora, a homey and tender braised bird with red peppers and tomatoes. Some polenta to soak up the juices would have been nice, but polenta. . . so much stirring and then there's the pot to scrub and my children do not eat polenta, which is crazy.

Here's a question: Reading at the dinner table. Do we allow it? Doesn't often come up around here, but last night Owen was engrossed in his latest MAD and sometimes at the end of the day peace seems to matter more than principle. Not exactly the Alice Waters vision of the family dinner, but at least there was no yelling.

11 comments:

  1. Who said that i didn't like polenta? I don't really but that doesn't mean that i won't eat it. off to put my chicken sandwich in my backpack.

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  2. Seems OK to me, especially on an occasional basis... he's reading, and he's sitting at the dinner table... two desirable activities, even if not ideally combined. Does Alice Waters have kids?

    Amy in Berkeley

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  3. Arrgh. I have one of those children at my house. So infuriating.

    We often read something together at dinner, but like the kids to put their books away for family meals. I don't know that the success of civilization hinges upon it, but it's something we try to do.

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  4. Otherwise, how will we fight about what's been cooked for dinner and why nobody likes it?

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  5. I think it is ok to read at the table if it's not keeping you from eating. But I'd also vote against working on the computer or other electronic device at the table. I might say, however, that one could listen to one's iPod at the table. The conversation thing isn't going to work too often, but just sitting there together is a good idea.

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  6. Dunno if it comes under the category of reading but doing something like a crossword puzzle at the table, involving the whole group, can be kind of fun. It's a breakfast tradition with my folks.

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  7. Just to clarify--the infuriating child is a picky eater, not a table reader. Though I'm sure he'd like to be both.

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  8. Consider candlelight dinners. Set the food on the table, light enough candles to see the food but not to read. Make it a ritual. It's amazing how calming, peaceful and lovely it can be. It really is somewhat magical. And if you then get a family conversation going---"what shall we plant in the garden?","What do you think of Hannah Montana", How about those deer that ate the tomatoes---should we share or fight?" Whatever. Maybe each person can take a turn chosing the starting topic.

    Lights on after dessert. And maybe the candles will even enhance that attractiveness of the well-cooked food!

    It worked for me.

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  9. Oh I knew I loved your blog!! I love to cook and bake, and used to do that to feed my fellow food-lover husband and me... usually making decadent, complicated recipes that we didn't end up eating until 10 pm. Fast forward 10 years, and I have four kids (9, 6, 4, 2) and I am still cooking and baking... just slightly differently. Like, eating at 6 pm, instead of 10 pm, and making fewer things mixed all up together in a gross way, and more things separated nicely, not touching. Sigh. Nobody but me in this house like polenta either, and I don't get it - it's such a friendly little starch! so out of the ordinary rice/potatoes/bread rut. As for reading while eating, I grew up being allowed to read while eating breakfast and lunch, but couldn't at dinner. Same rules apply here, to much harumphing, except on "special" nights... usually Friday night, or nights when I am tired and myself want to read the New Yorker and sit quietly while eating. :) Yay! I'm so happy I found your blog! Keep the posts coming! -Gail in Maryland

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  10. Hey! I 've never left a comment here, but really love your blog. I just wanted to say that you don't have to scrub the polenta pan: just leave it with cold water in it for half an hour and the polenta bits lose off completely. :)

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  11. around here it's games on the cell phone. but the other day the fussiest eater that won't eat anything green or anything that looks like a yam/sweet potato. basically only eats mashed potato with gravy and meat. well he was deep in the throws of some building a city game on a cell phone and ate 3,,,yes 3 oven roasted baby sweet potato/yams. (they are labelled sweet potatoes, but I'm convinced they are yams) and a pile of broccoli. He kept demanding more and more. We were all sitting there agoog. Now his favorite food is "sweet potatoes, with a bunch of butter and a little salt" please. I still can't believe it. I'm kinda rethinking the whole "no cell phone games at the table" rule. Kids will eat anything if they are playing some stupid ass game on the phone. It's very strange.

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