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This Week's Column: Home-Cooked Family Meals

by: Jill Richardson

Wed May 01, 2013 at 11:44:23 AM PDT


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This week, I wrote my column on the importance of cooking at home and eating together with your family. Usually I try to base my columns on something going on in the news or something seasonal (like gardening in the springtime). In this case, I picked the topic because Michael Pollan's new book on cooking just came out.

The topic's serious but I tried to lighten it up with humor. And, I'm no comedian, so I did the best I could. Which will probably explain why I don't make my living doing stand-up.

As I've noted before, my weekly op-eds are aimed at a very mainstream audience. An audience who might not know their GMOs from their OMGs. Since the crowd on this blog is a bit more nuanced in their food and ag knowledge, you might also like to read an interview with Michael Pollan I did this week about his new book.

You'll find my op-ed on home-cooked meals below.

Jill Richardson :: This Week's Column: Home-Cooked Family Meals
A Parenting Priority
Originally posted at Other Words

Even when the kids complain, you're doing right by them when you cook dinner and eat together.

Any kid can easily rattle off a list of their parents' biggest sins. When I was younger, my gripes included my mom and dad stealing my Halloween candy and not letting me watch R-rated movies. Later on, I was ticked that my parents made me go to school on Senior Ditch Day.

But many of the most important parental successes go unnoticed by children. In fact, what children appreciate most - trips to theme parks or expensive toys, perhaps - hardly even rank on the Parental Bests list. I don't think I really appreciated that until I was an adult with kids to care for myself.

One of the best things my parents did for our family was something that, as a child, I probably would have dismissed by saying, "That doesn't count." Several nights a week, my parents made a home-cooked meal. We ate together as a family every night.

As a kid, having dinner together was just a given. It was even kind of a drag. It meant I was under my parents' watchful eyes and I was required to eat vegetables and drink an entire glass of milk before leaving the table.

If my parents let me take my plate to eat alone in front of the TV, it would have been easier to smuggle those veggies off to my pet rabbit. And if dinner was take-out fare (particularly if the menu items began with "Mc" and came with fries and a drink), I would have loved it.

But no. We had well-balanced homemade meals and we kids were expected to eat them. It didn't occur to me to thank my parents for going to the trouble of cooking after they had already put in full days at work. I was too busy making gagging motions every time mom served asparagus.

My first hint that my mom had done anything special was my first "official" day as an adult, when I moved into an apartment and began a full-time job. After work, I decided to make dinner. Because that's normal. That's what you do.

I pulled out a cookbook and began preparing a chickpea curry. My roommates reacted with surprise, and one of them said, "Wow! You really cook!" I later found out that one of them lived on breakfast cereal, and the other one, who "cooked," just heated up prepared meals from the freezer.

Nowadays, Americans spend less time than ever cooking their meals. But as bestselling author Michael Pollan points out in his new book Cooked, making dinner and eating together as a family is one of the most important things you can do for your kids.

Looking at it from the parents' side of the equation, it's not as easy as my mom made it look. Building up a repertoire of recipes, ensuring you've got all of the ingredients on hand, finding the time to cook and then sit down together somewhere between homework, swim practice, and piano lessons... it's all work. And then you're often thanked by choruses of "I don't like it" and "do I have to eat it?"

But, even when the kids complain, you're doing right by them when you cook dinner and eat together. They are learning conversation skills and manners. They not only eat healthier food (compared to store-bought or restaurant fare), but they are also developing their taste buds so that they will eat well throughout their lives.

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Jill, you are so right! (4.00 / 2)
I agree completely about the importance of sharing meals, from food to conversation. My sister and I washed and dried dishes every night, too, while my mother cleaned up the rest of the kitchen and drank coffee. We did our big monthly grocery shopping together too. These were all lessons in sharing, responsibility, and the cycle that brings feeds us.

Cook for Good

Save money. Eat well. Make a difference.


hey how are you doing? (4.00 / 1)
Someone was just talking to me about your book the other day and now I can't remember who it was! But it made me happy that your book was being read and helping people.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

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