IN WHATEVER SHE DOES, LAURIE DAVID IS A BELIEVER—and passionately spreads the word. To open her latest book, “The Family Dinner,” is to join a faith whose deceptively simple message is lately all too elusive: Connect with your loved ones, one meal at a time. What better time than (almost) Thanksgiving to revive such needed wisdom? Win one of two copies I bought to share—filled with “participatory dinners” that encourage fresh or homegrown ingredients, renewed communications, and a heightened consciousness about the food we eat, and share. Confession: I got up at 5 the other morning and by 7 had devoured “The Family Dinner”—even though I am a one-person household.
THE ACTION-PACKED BOOK is constructed like the tastiest lasagna, with unexpected supporting ingredients tucked everywhere: tips for using leftovers; vegetarian-friendly substitutions; easy recipes for add-ons like dressings (will it be Tahini, Ranch, or Asian Apple Vinaigrette?); nine clever ways to use quinoa to boost protein in other dishes; conversation-starting dinner games to turn you into a deipnosophist (“a person skilled in table talk”); even variations on the act of grace.
“The Family Dinner” is a collaboration between David, producer of the film “An Inconvenient Truth” and a trustee of the National Resources Defense Council (above left), and Danish-born Kirstin Uhrenholdt (right), a gifted cook whom David calls “a magical, whimsical Mary Poppins/Tinker Bell presence”—a quality that really comes through in the recipes. I felt happy—and hungry—reading every one. Bring on the Crispy, Smashed Potatoes and the Sloooooow Cooker Curry and the Vietnamese Soup in a Teapot! And don’t forget homegrown artichokes:
But there are other voices, in essays and quotes stuffed in sidebars and margins, all sounding the cry along with the co-authors: Dr. Maya Angelou to Judge Judy; chefs Mario Batali, Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver—even President Barack Obama.
“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” author Michael Pollan offered up this:
“People say they don’t have time to cook, yet in the last few years we have found an extra two hours a day for the internet.”
Or, from Nora Ephron:
“A family is a group of people who eat the same thing for dinner.”
THERE ARE FACTOIDS TO SAVOR and perhaps spit back out (like: 1 in 5 meals today is eaten in the car, heaven help us) and others to digest really carefully (it takes 7 gallons of water to grow a portion of lettuce, but roughly 2,600 gallons to produce a portion of steak). Or this: that in the 1930’s—not so long ago—all food was organic.
Because of these powerful little extras, “The Family Dinner” transcends mere family-friendly cookbook and teaches smart eating: for personal health, yes, but also for the planet’s.
And then, as promised, there is grace—including this one:
The Grace of the Bodhisattva
This food comes from the earth and the sky,
It is the gift of the entire universe
And the fruit of much hard work;
I vow to live a life which is worthy to receive it.
Could there be a better sentiment for us as gardeners? May you all share a blessed Thanksgiving holiday full of nourishing food and conversation with those you love.
- Visit The Family Dinner website
- See Laurie David teach Martha Stewart her Vietnamese Soup in a Teapot
- The Family Dinner on Facebook
How to Win the Book
TO ENTER TO WIN ‘THE FAMILY DINNER,’ simply comment below by sharing a memory of a favorite family meal or tradition; entries close at midnight on Thanksgiving night; winners announced Friday. Those of you who are regulars know I’ll accept your entry even if you just say “Count me in,” but that I love hearing your stories if you feel comfortable sharing them. Two winners will be selected using the tool at random [dot] org.
I’ve always loved the abundance of people and food on Thanksgiving. It’s a time to see family and friends not seen in a while and enjoy specially prepared dishes not served any other time of the year. One of my favorite dishes is what we call Mama’s Thanksgiving salad made with maraschino cherries, pineapple, and marshmallows combined with cream cheese and whipped cream. It’s a tradition my family began in the 50’s when my favorite color was pink. The salad is light and fluffy and pink. And it looks beautiful on the dinner plate.
Family meals with extended families from far and wide, have a special place in my heart. Recently I hosted a dinner for my husband of two years, my step children, some from Australia, and their mother, whom I had never met.
It was interesting and certainly brought us all closer. We’re so blessed.
I have fond memories of when Dad used to cook his special breakfast-it consisted of omelette, bacon and tomatoes-usually from a tin-all on a slice of toast! It tasted so much better than just on a plate!!
My favorite Thanksgiving is driving five hours, plus time change, to see my favorite aunt, two cousins and their children. My aunt was the youngest of the family and I the youngest grandchildren so she was my baby sitter. She said I was her first child and practiced on me. We all bring dishes and she bakes the turkey. It is not so much the food but exchanging stories of when we were young and of grandparents and their grandparents.
Thanksgiving is the best holiday because it does not carry the pressure of Christmas, just family, telling stories on each other, and watching the next generation come along.
THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU SHARE!!!!
Please count me in for The Family Dinner book give away…..
I may be too late but I’ll share my favourite family dinner…well, it’s actually any that I’ve shared with my mom, brother & his family. We all live in different cities & it’s wonderful when we can dine together.
Entries are now closed — thanks to all of you for sharing your great stories.
I have selected and emailed two winners chosen at random…will announce their names once I hear back!