Monday, October 19, 2009

Anatomy of a meal.....

Growing up, past second grade or so, I could count on one hand the number of meals we sat down to during weekdays in any given year. My dad often worked past 8 p.m. and somewhere along the line, even the fish stick and french fry or a can of tomato soup over spaghetti meals got lost along the way. We became "grazers" of the first sort. And that is really how I've been ever since and until recently, how I was raising the kids.

At some point when everyone seemed hungry, I would open the fridge and start asking the kids what sounded good (Greg is often not home in time for dinner). It might be peanut butter or cheese or apples. We'd sit at the counter and chow.

Then one day last year my husband dropped something off at my friend and neighbor Cathy's house and came back with stars in his eyes as he'd actually seen her kids setting the table for dinner with plates, glasses, napkins and cutlery! Greg, who grew up in a more traditional farm family, had this desire that we might actually use our kitchen table for family style meals.

As you can't pick up a parenting magazine without stats jumping out at you that families that sit down and have meals together do all sorts of good things, I thought I'd give this a try. And so, for about the past six months or so, the kids and I and Greg when he can make it sit down.

Now I'm expanding that to try and get some sort of balanced diet. My friend Cathy not only has kids that set the table, they must eat at least one vegetable with each meal. We're not there yet.

But I did read you sometimes have to offer kids a new thing (spinach) twenty or thirty times before they finally learn they love it! Thus far they've shown little interest in the healthy stuff, but just letting me put it on the plate is progress. So I've been ladling on at least one or two veggies and a fruit with threats that if they fuss about just having it on their plates no Curious George show after dinner and this not surprisingly has made them quite acquiescent to at least the sight if not the taste of vegetables.

In time, it will be Curious George for at least a taste of everything on the plate. Hope their obsession with that monkey remains strong.....

My mom, after seeing Jessica Seinfeld (married to Jerry), on Oprah touting her book Deceptively Delicious - Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food, went out and bought it new, full price at $24.95 (unheard of). She is hoping her daughter is going to become the sort of mom who will bake brownies with pureed zucchini snuck in or cook spaghetti pie with 1/2 cup of broccoli puree invisible to protests. A noble effort all around.

It is now after dinner and the kids are watching their television show, Greg just came in toting a take out box with his restaurant lunch leftovers and mom is facing a pile of dirty pots and pans and plates full of uneaten produce, and thinking "grazing" really isn't so bad.......


  1. Eileen, it's amazing how similar we grew up (and I am sure how completely differently). I too lived in a cluttered house and am still trying to recover from some of my habits, I too lived in a home where adults were not always available for a dinner routine, however, in my case, it fell on me to make dinner for my sisters. My husband feels that anything less than a sit down dinner with plates and cloth napkins is faking it. However, he has adapted to my looser style and I have come around to making plans for dinner in advance, and even getting everyone to sit around the table (assuming that it is not covered with my latest sewing project, a consequence of having no work table/work space).
    My sister purchased the Seinfeld book, and suggested the chickpea cookies to me, insisting that we'd love them - I haven't yet convinced myself fully to spend the money on chocolate chips and then mix them with chickpeas....
    I am lucky that we love broccoli and carrots and the kids can be tricked into consuming whatever I put into "baby burgers" (small hamburger patties supplemented with whatever I put into the blender) as long as their are also fries or mashed potatoes next to it along with a generous amount of ketchup.

    I find that a lot of the good habits require "tricks and tips" to keep them viable.

  2. Antoinette, You've heard the concept that we're all just seven degrees of seperation from each other....we may well be long lost cousins;-) Eileen