Book Review: The Family Dinner

January 20th, 2011

I’m an avid reader of parenting books. A bit of a junkie, actually. It’s not that I don’t have confidence in my own parenting abilities — I just really like to read what other people have to say on the topic. Many (most?) of the published material on the subject of child-rearing is just okay, but every now and again, a book rocks my world.

My current favorite? The Family Dinner by Laurie David. Josh bought it for me for Christmas and I just can’t put it down. It’s part group memoir, part parenting book, part cookbook. It’s phenomenal. Did you know that “compared to teens who rarely have family dinners, those who have them five or more times a week are 42 percent less likely to drink alcohol and 59 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes“?

David is an impassioned family dinner advocate and her book systematically covers many “facets” to dinner — from recipes to table settings to a compendium of traditional blessings to be said over meals to possible conversation topics for those not used to discourse over dinner. Interspersed with all this are musings, poetry, and brief essays on the topic of family dining, compiled from a cornucopia of sources, from Nigella Lawson to Tom Hanks to Sheryl Crow.

And then there are the recipes. Sections on soups, “quick and easy,” and “meatless Mondays,” to name a few. I’ve only made two but I’m pleased so far. I may never go back to stove-top grilled cheese sandwiches after trying her oven-toasted method.

The Family Dinner is pretty dense. It is absolutely bursting with information and I wouldn’t recommend trying to read it all in one sitting. It’s best enjoyed in small nibbles. I read bits and pieces of it over breakfast, thumbing from one section to the next, reveling in all it has to offer.

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