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.