‘the family dinner’ giveaway: nourishing wisdom

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.

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.

Categoriesedible plants
  1. chris says:

    ten years to this thanksgiving my sis was recovering in the hospital from colon cancer surgery at the age of 37. they said it was probably stage four as she had involvement with other organs. thanksgiving was two days after. it was the best one ever. biopsies were coming back and we sat in her room, while she was drugged out and slurring on morphine, eating vegan sandwiches. she just celebrated her 10 year survival one week early last sunday, toi toi toi knock on wood.

  2. Judy says:

    Christmas was always spent rushing from this grandparents’ to that grandparents’ home, but Thanksgiving was my Mom’s own special day! Twenty-seven family members would gather for the unveiling of the bird, walks, and later, much talking, laughing, puzzle construction, and gorging on the seven pies. Two months after her last hurrah as Queen of Thanksgiving, she died and the tradition passed to me for fifteen years. Now my brother hosts and the family has expanded to twice that number with children, grandchildren., and great-grandchildren. We still do the same things and eat the same things, but we are up to fifteen pies! Mom would be so proud!

  3. Sarah says:

    One of our favorite family traditions is making pfefferniuss every Christmas. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t “old enough” to roll out the snakes and cut them with a dull butter knife into hundreds and hundreds of tiny cookies. Can’t wait to get my little ones in on the action this year; it’ll be my 3-1/2 year old’s third year making them and my 18 month old’s first!

    We even gave a small bag of them away for our wedding favor (as we got married the first weekend of January!) and they always hold a special place in my heart!


  4. TomW says:

    My aunt’s home baked clover rolls have forever left an imprint on my Thanksgiving brain. Forget the turkey, just please pass the rolls.

  5. Aly says:

    I was fortunate to live very near my grandparents as a child, and we had Sunday dinner at their house every week. My grandfather would make the salad and then settle in for a day of watching football. We ate things there that I’m sure we never would have tried otherwise, so we were strange kids who loved asparagus and spinach (cooked, then splashed with vinegar). Everyone’s favorite, though, was the Jello, a rotating set of flavors, always with some fruit added in. Yum!

  6. Faye says:

    Growing up, our family usually had spaghetti on Friday nights. It was usually quite a jovial dinner, as everyone relaxed from the week. My parents now live in California, so have added a glass of wine to their Fridays meals-so since they have red sauce and red wine-they’re “Red Fridays”. My mom saw a little sculpture of a smiling monk holding a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine and bought one for herself and me, my brother, and sister.

    My family now has “Red Friday” with our little monk looking on-tonight it is homemade spaghetti sauce (from tomatoes from our garden) with meatballs! It’s always pizza, or some kind of pasta dish-and it’s fun to think of all of us doing this, even though we’re far apart.

  7. Matt says:

    My favorite meal memories come from the summer when our family and friends have feasts at our beach house. There are so many dinners and brunches that we’ve all shared it would be impossible to pick just one.

  8. Marie says:

    My favorite memory of the holidays is ‘picking’ in the kitchen while all the Ladies of the family were cooking and baking. I hung out in the kitchen while my cousins and siblings were outside or elsewhere playing. Sometimes I was invisible, but mostly I was a ‘nuisance’, asking for a taste or wanting to help roll the pie crusts or mash the potatoes. To this day, the best part of holiday meals is being able to ‘pinch’ a bit of whatever as it comes out of the oven, hot and crispy. YUM!

  9. Mary-Jane says:

    Thanksgiving at my maternal grandparents: My grandfather was gruff, peculiar, and strict. However, on Thanksgiving he mellowed slightly after two Manhattans. He felt my brother and I must learn to love oysters on the half-shell. So, we were offfered 25 cents for every one we swallowed. (Mind you, this was in 1947 – when a quarter meant something!) My brother went home with $5 and I with nothing.

  10. nora says:

    Oh, the family memories,the best, my mother’s saurkraut (at any occassion) and the biggest dare – either you love it or hate it “green gork” – therehave been payoffs for members of the family to eat it (to placate Aunt Maddie) a combination of lime jello, cottage cheese, pineapple and more.

  11. Cheryl says:

    Saturday lunch at Grandma & Grandpap’s was a ritual that even after all these years I can clearly see & taste in my mind’s eye. The smell of fresh rolls baking in the oven would greet us at the door.The small round table was set simply and finished with those colorful aluminum glasses – Grandpap always had the silver one. A little jar of mayo, a jar of apple butter, a dish of cottage cheese. A plate from the kitchen, with chipped ham, sliced american cheese & tomato and lettuce leaves. The plate seemed small but no matter what, there was always enough for everyone.

  12. Joanne says:

    Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday. All the wonderfulness of a family gathering without the expectations of gifts!
    My favorite tradition is tying a sprig of rosemary to each napkin in remembrance of t hose who are no longer with us. Rosemary is for remembrance.
    Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving and thanks for you great blo

  13. We do dinner every night, even with our toddlers. Then one night, during the Olympics we thought we would treat ourselves and eat dinner at the coffee table so we could watch hockey. Our girls lost it. It wasn’t dinner to them! So even if we have to endure screaming contests, rounds of songs, and a near constant refrain of “less talking, more eating” we sit down together every night.

  14. Whitney says:

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because of all the wonderful memories I have that center around the kitchen. There is not one in particular that comes to mind, but just the general feeling I get at this time of year makes me warm and nostalgic all over. I love waking up early and finding the kitchen full of my favorite women who have raised me, taught me to cook, and made me the woman I am today. I have learned so much more than recipes in the kitchen and, as my daugher’s first Thanksgiving fast approaches, I so look forward to teaching her how to cook and how to live fully, one Thanksgiving at a time.

  15. Rae Koberna says:

    Every year our large family gathers at the feast of Thanksgiving. Everything must be prepared the same way. One year, I decided to make a part cornbread stuffing because I like a lot of Southern cooking. I didn’t hear the comments until later – who made the stuffing? Back to the usual bread stuffing. One thing that my son called me about now that he lives in South Carolina was “Do you still have the electric fry pan with one broken leg and you prop it up with an old salt shaker”? Yes I still use it because it is very large and holds the sweet potatoes when I glaze them for Thanksgiving. Old habit die hard.

  16. Celia Adamec says:

    One of my most cherished traditions is the annual baking of dozens (hundreds?) of traditional German Christmas cookies. My mom has always baked these and as kids we always looked forward to the many varieties each year, with our favorites changing from year to year as our tastes matured. When we were little, we were allowed to ‘help’ by decorating the butter cookies with sprinkles, or by icing the cinnamon stars with their eggwhite/lemon glaze. In recent years, I’ve realized that I need to hurry up and learn how to make all these recipes myself so that I can carry on this tradition!! So now my mom and I get together sometime before the holidays and we bake together – she brings her tattered, old recipes and cookbooks and I scribble high-altitude notes along the way. The results are always delicious and I am happy to say I’m now in a position to continue this annual baking extravaganza into the future and pass it on to my own children!

  17. Amanda Gray says:

    Any meal that all of us are at is memorable. Very rarely does my husband get to eat with me and the littles. So whether it’s a standing rib roast or macaroni and cheese (out of a box…eeeek!) they are always special dinners. My oldest son insists that we light candles (to be fancy) and use cloth napkins when Daddy is with us.

  18. susan says:

    One of my best memories of a family meal is in early childhood. My dad would bring home bags filled with lobster and steamers. The big pot would be filled with water and the fun began. Making the mess in the kitchen was the best part for me.

  19. susan says:

    My favorite family mean memories are of very large family meals at Christmas. There were tons of aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins everywhere. The food just never stopped and was always a combination of American traditional and Italian-American. How could that be bad. And of course not just he cookie plate but the cookie table. They were grand meals.

  20. Catherine says:

    My mom and her sisters were from the deep, deep South. My lineage as a cook really goes back to my Aunt Mae Ida, who, one summer when I really, really, really needed to feel as if I had some roots, took me out blackberry picking in northern Florida and then helped me to make the best blackberry pie in the world. I would just about kill for the chance to go back in time and get her recipe for hush-puppies, which she explained to me were made from the leftovers and thrown to the dogs with the admonition, “Hush, puppy!” With guava jelly, they were the best thing I’ve ever eaten and, well, I’ve eaten in some nice places.

  21. Mel says:

    My dad owned a restaurant when I was really little and didn’t cook at all at home except for steamed crabs, bouillabaisse and steak on the grill. My mom was a wonderful and we always ate together as a family. We try very hard to do that with our own kids and it amazes when they bring friends over how shocked they are that we do this.

  22. Carolyn says:

    This post made me stop in my tracks. Family dinners are what we are missing! We are too caught up in the hustle and bustle. While growing up, my family always sat down for dinner and we even said grace. Why don’t we do that now? Yes, somehow I have found 2 extra hours in my day for the internet….yet say I have no time to cook (I am writing this quote down and posting on my bulletin board). Today, things are going to change! This book is on my wish list and family dinner time is a new priority. Thank you for this post.

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