‘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.

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  1. Susan Stone says:

    Thanksgiving was my son’s favorite holiday. Not sure why he had chosen Thanksgiving over Christmas or even Halloween but he had. He was a picky eater beyond belief and so it was always a challenge to find something special for him. There were always my mother’s cinnamon rolls and especially for Matt, corn on the cob. Due to the fact that it was well past fresh corn season it meant frozen corn but he still loved it. For my daughter it’s always a special vegetarian dish, this year she asked for asparagus bread pudding so that is what it will be. I miss my son but he is always in my heart and memories.

  2. Nichole Grosser says:

    When I was younger, our family always got together at my grandmother’t for Thanksgiving. It was a bit of a drive and we would arriver early in the day and stay well into the evening. Most of the time I would sneak an overnight bag into the car without my brothers knowing so that I could ask to spend the night without them. For the actual meal, I’ve always had to sit at the kids table for Thanksgiving. No matter how old I got or how big the table got, I was always the designated Kid table person.
    As the years have passed, and our family is spread out even more, we are unable to get together like we used to. I never thought the day would come that I would actually miss sitting at that table-but I do.

  3. k.braverman says:

    When my kids were in high school I acquired a copy of La cuisine de France by the Countess mapie de la Toulouse Lautrec. I also belonged to a vegetable co-op where we’d shop at the Bronx food markets at 5 a.m when it was our turn to do the shopping and then come home and divvy up on a Manhattan street corner. I also belonged to a cheese co-op…same story, but indoors.So I had a lot of things to cook on hand, sometimes things i’d never heard of.
    I happily worked my way through the book, my kids love to eat good food and family dinners are a pleasure in our house and you should see my copy of the book now: the cover is hanging off, there are stains everywhere, but lots of great memories.

  4. Kathleen Anne says:

    Please know that the best meals for me were the SAturday nights at home with my parents and six brothers and sisters. Spaghetti night! Each night of the week we were at the dining room table, sharing dinner together. We still talk about it! –Kathleen

  5. Tracy Hankwitz says:

    Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday because of my mom. Over the years, she has made it something that we hate to miss. It’s all about family, blessings, and delicious food. Mom sets a beautiful table with linens, crystal, and china. Our family has grown and the dining room table now extends into the living room. Often there will be guests at the table that she has invited not wanting them to spend it alone, so for the day they are part of the family.

    The holiday continues into Friday as all the gals gather to make fresh evergreen wreaths from boughs that we have cut. The guys don a pair of gloves and help my dad put in a load of firewood for the winter. My kids love going to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s for Thanksgiving and we all miss it when we are unable to be there.

  6. Yael Grauer says:

    One of my favorite family meals was simply spaghetti with my father’s favorite meat sauce. He has since sent me many bolognese recipes, but none of them capture the flavor. I plan on watching him cook soon next time I visit to figure out what the secret is.

  7. David says:

    Well for me, it was the decision to really start to cook that began the transformation. Artisan bread baked every week. Vegetables and fruits fresh from the farmers market. Quarter of a cow, or a full pig from the farmer.

    It all seemed to work in harmony.

    Today it is the deboning of the turkey, the chicken and the duck that begin the journey.

    Yep, it is Turducken time. The old turkey stuffed with a chicken that is stuffed with a duck. Three kinds of stuffing, and then sew it up and put it in the 190 degree oven for a long time. A real long time.

    After it sits and congeals a bit you can slice it like it is prime rib. There is never as much as a morsel left because it truly is shockingly fantastic.

    That said, I am doing a 14 pounder in the traditional style for those, well, more traditional. In my mind it is done so we can give away and retain a few leftovers for Friday, cause by Friday the Turducken is a mere memory.

    Thanks for your great site, Margaret, it is a nurturing and creative space….



  8. Alvaro Abrego says:

    One of the fondest food memories I have is the preparation of tamales for Christmas dinner at my grandmother’s house. It was a huge operation with my grandmother and four of her daughters in charge but the kids helped out also. Our job was to grind the corn ( yes, it was home made masa ), soak and separate the corn husks and do clean up chores. So much work but so worth it.

  9. Gracia says:

    I loved the breakfasty type meals we’d have in the summer for supper on the farm when I was growing up. Mom would scramble up some eggs from her Aracana chickiens (they lay eggs with colored shells), and then she’d slice dead ripe tomatoes from the garden, heavily salted and peppered, and we’d have pickled cucumber slices, big green pepper rings, and a big dollop of cottage cheese with fresh chives atop them. Hot buttered toast on the side. And a big glass of cold milk. Yum. Those precious days are long gone…

  10. Faith Wong says:

    When I was growing up, my mother was a busy teacher and farmer’s wife. Sunday was the time of the was the week she had to go all out for a to-die-for, everything-from-scratch mid-day meal. A roast (we had Angus cattle and also hogs), mashed potatoes, gravy, yeasty mile-high light rolls, homemade butter, jams and jellies she had made or her swee-tart applesauce or apple butter, often vegetables she had frozen from the family garden, several kinds of pickles she delighted in making in the summer time, and apple or cherry pies made from fruit produced by our own trees. Other favorite pies were her custard, chocolate, banana cream, coconut, butterscotch, rhubarb, and mincemeat. She would often invite relatives to eat with us. It was a time to enjoy loved ones and visit. Mom always made extra on Sunday so that we could coast for a few days. What special memories Mom created for all of her family!

  11. Mimi says:

    My favorite family tradition is that we do meals in stages so they last forever. We start with something bubbly accompanied by nibbles, then we move on to starters but this is optional if the nibbles were substantial. Then dinner proper followed by dessert. All the while talking non-stop, and then we say “how did the evening go by so fast?”

  12. carol says:

    i remember when i was growing up how my thanksgivings were, mom was always the first to get up and start making the turkey and filling her’s was the best……….. we were poor but mom always had a big meal candied sweet potatoes,cucumber salad, corn of course her homemade gravy noone could beat mom’s. and of course her apple pie made with all the love for her family. now i am older and mom is making thanksgiving dinner in heaven for all my family that has passed.

  13. Anne says:

    My favorite meal memories have more to do with the preparation than the consumption. Peeling our own home-grown garlic working in the kitchen with the ones I love brings me much peace and comfort. I especially enjoy this on Saturday nights when no scheduled activities are pressing and Garrison Keilor’s stories captivate me and keep me giggling.

  14. Cynthia Ellis says:

    Some of my fondest memories are of family dinners that included relatives. My brother and our cousins sat at the kids table, of course, and we were glad of it. We were close in age and equally balanced, two boys and two girls. We had so much silly fun. The worst though was probably when we tried to see who could put the most pepper in a bit of napkin and stuff it up their nose! The food was always wonderful and often ethnic Russian fare.

  15. Sharon says:

    I fondly remember the year (many moons ago) that I marched in the Macy’s Day Parade. Had just gotten a job at Macy’s as a holiday worker. I loved the camaraderie, the feelings of giving something to the children of the city, the teamwork required to hold down one of those huge balloons. And then rushing home to my family Thanksgiving dinner, bringing an exciting experience home to share.

  16. Phyllis says:

    My daughter has grown up to be a wonderful cook despite the fact I have literally burned a pot in which water was boiling!!! For today’s family dinner, she has made a ham, savory stuffing, spinach dip in a bread bowl and a yummy pumpkin roll!!! I am taking a break beafore getting our bird into the oven. Wish me luck!!! Happy Thanksgiving to all!!
    Margaret, thank you for your help in the garden and for your uplifting words and pictures, including doodles by Andre!!♥

  17. Caroline Quinn says:

    My husband is the cook at our house. Every year I think his turkey can’t get any better but it does. He tries to replicate his grandmother’s Thanksgiving meal from his childhood. She was a great cook and her holiday meals were wonderful.

  18. Tanja says:

    Wow, those are all gret stories! Our Thanksgiving meals have always been a mix of foods and traditiions. These last years, I have become vegan, my daughter a veggie while the ‘boys’ (hubby and son) still enjoy their ham and turkey. Lol, therfore Thanksgiving dinner has become a very interesting meal as we try to make a little of everything. You never know what is going to end up on that groaning table. The kids are young adults now, no longer living at home, or even in the same city, so getting together is much harder to do, and therefore, such a blessing when it happens.

  19. Donna says:

    When I was little we always went to my grandma’s house for thanksgiving. All my cousins, aunt’s and uncles came. So much laughter and food, the turkey was huge.
    Grandma always made homemade ice cream. One year she made pumpkin ice cream. My brothers didn’t like it.

  20. Dj says:

    I would have to say that my fondest memory is of cold weekend mornings in winter in Minnesota and having chipped beef on toast. Definitely not a gourmet meal, but warm and filling and delicious. To this day whenever my sister and I visit one another, we always manage a meal of chipped beef on toast whether for breakfast or dinner. And it keeps us close to the memory of our wonderful parents and our wonderful childhood.

  21. Nance mazzola says:

    A most memorable Thanksgiving was my first one on the east coast in 1993, beautiful fall colors, crisp weather and lovely colonial home. Quite a change from the sunny beaches of southern California! My daughter brought some new friends home from university for the holiday so of course I wanted it to be special. I planned and prepped in anticipation of a great gathering which it turned out to be. Of course of the four guests at the table two were vegetarian, one vegan, one anorexic and one bulimic. Changelling but certainly memorable and worth the effort!!

  22. Debbie says:

    My grandmother, Nannie, was a great cook. I am daily reminded of her in my kitchen where I now use her bowls, rolling pins, turkey platter, and hand written recipes on yellowed paper. At holidays there was never one main course, one side dish, or one bread. It was a feast and she did it all herself. What I loved best was to open the door to the attic where a blast of cold would rush to meet you. On the steps there was pie after pie after pie. Coconut cream pie, pumpkin pie, lemon meringue, chocolate meringue, and a berry pie. The scraps of dough she would place in the small pie tin, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, and then bake it just for me. She was a bright light in my otherwise gray childhood. Happy Thanksgiving Nannie. I love you.

  23. IAboy says:

    Honestly, with the memory not being what it used to be, the favorite traditional Thanksgiving turkey that I enjoy, is the one currently being digested.

  24. Nancy says:

    I have always enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner and loved sharing my cooking with my family and friends. This past year, my youngest son moved away and won’t be with us – he will be greatly missed. My oldest son will join us for dinner along with his girlfriend, hence one leaves while another joins us. I have shared the joy of cooking with my sons, and they are now cooking for themselves. My son baked cookies, rolls and an apple pie to grace our table. I remember when the boys were young, they would pick at Thanksgiving dinner – they both were fairly picky eaters; but boy when I made homemade turkey pot pie with all the same turkey and veggies that were on the Thanksgiving table they came back for seconds!

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