The family dinner is so important to me. The time I spend with my family at the dinner table is priceless as well as entertaining. Besides the obvious importance of conversation, I feel that the dinner table is great place to social skills, teach manners, and eating proper portions. Setting the mood for the family dinner table is important to me as well, Have a clean, relaxing environment, have someone set the table (teach your family the right way to set the table), do not have the television on, and leave heated conversations at the door. We have a rule in our family: If I took the time to cook it...take the time to plate it! Paper plates are off limits at the dinner table. Of course, environmentally, this is a great choice, but I feel it shows a certain amount of pride as well. I also think that you can learn a lot about your family from cooking with them as well. I used to be the territorial type in the kitchen. But I have learned throughout the years that engaging your family in the kitchen is not only helpful but encourages those who help to try new things, learn about eating healthier, learn how to use cutlery and appliances safely, express a new form of creativity, and is a great forum for conversation. As for the mess, it may be a mess the first time, but if you have them help clean up the mess and teach them better ways to prepare without creating an extra chore...they will learn. Last night it was one of the “littles” turn to help prepare dinner. Usually, I have family members help one at a time. This is a great way to spend quality one-on-one time. Her nickname is “BG”, she is 4, and this is how the conversation went:
BG “You need a gween bag Mommy.”
Me “A what?”
BG “A gween bag.”
Me “What’s that?”
BG “It’s a bag...that you put things in...and it makes them so they don’t get
Me “Things like what?”
BG “Like vegebals.”
Me “Oh...where did you learn about these green bags?”
BG “On TV”
Me “How do I get them?”
BG “At da stowe.”
Me “What if I don’t have any money?”
BG “Daddy will be home in a minute..I wiw tew him to buy you some.”
Me “Thanks...that would be nice.”
Maybe I should focus a little more on keeping the television off as BG loves infomercials. We prepared a basic meal - Mandarin salad and french bread pizza (gourmet I know, but it was sooo good).If you have never had french bread pizza, you are missing out!
The last ingredient to the Mandarin salad was edamame.
I only had edamame in the shell so BG and I sat and shelled them together. I could see she was having some difficulty, since usually she just bites them and eats them as a snack-she never had to do it by hand. Once it looked like she had the hang of things, I started to mix the dressing together. Only to look over a few minutes later to catch “BG” shelling the edamame in her mouth and spitting them into the salad! Good thing we weren’t having guests for dinner.
Finally, I had both of the "littles" set the table. It is great problem solving for young children to set the table. They always love this chore. They both disappeared to the back yard and emerged minutes later with handfuls of dandelions to place in the center of the table. There was never a lovelier centerpiece.
As I always say, sometimes the best dinners are the most simple...the ones that bring you back to your childhood and your family dinner table...and last night's dinner was just that!