Hi everyone. A good friend of ours passed away this week after a valiant struggle with cancer. Although it is unspeakably sad , I am writing about it because of how he inspired my family. He lived his life in the moment, cherished his family and was driven not by money or ambition, but by positive connections and interactions with family, friends and acquaintances. He and his wife made a point of making family the center of their lives.
During his illness, my husband and I became inspired to make more of an effort to spend quality time with family. One of the ways we decided to shift gears was to start having family dinners whenever possible. It is so easy to get into a routine where the children eat before the adults, eating separate meals. It seemed like more work at first, but we eventually got into a rhythm, had the kids eat a little later , and the kids even started eating more varieties of food that they refused to eat before. There was actually a study discussed in the NY Times in October stating that children eat healthier when they eat with the family, even when the TV is on.
Family meals, even if eaten together only one time a week, can be a great time to reunite as a family, allow children to engage in an actual conversation with their parents and siblings and to create memories. It is so easy to get caught up in our fast paced culture and to eat on the run. It does actually takes a commitment to make the family dinners happen but there is a great emotional and health payoff for everyone involved. It is also a great opportunity to set reachable goals for meal preparations, especially if it is just once a week.
Here’s a really easy recipe that is fool proof:
Maple Soy Salmon:
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 6 oz. salmon filets
In a sauce pan, boil 1/2 cup soy sauce and 1/2 cup maple syrup until it is syrupy. You must watch over this and stir continuously because if you let it go too long, it will burn. It should take about 10 minutes but don’t quote me on that-every stove top has different levels of heat intensity. Just watch it and stir. Don’t go multi-tasking, checking your mail or folding laundry because it WILL burn while you are gone. When it is syrupy, set aside.
Bake at 350 degrees or pan fry salmon until it is opaque in the center. If you are frying, use a little olive oil and if you are baking use parchment paper in a baking dish (If you have not bought parchment paper-go do it NOW!)
Pour the syrup over the salmon. Save the leftover sauce for another day in a tupperware in the fridge. Serve this sauce to your kids with tofu, chicken, other fish or vegetables.
I wish you all many happy mealtimes with family and friends in 2008. Bye-Bye….
Great thoughts! I’m sorry to hear about your friend. He sounds like he was a real gem.
I totally agree that meal times together are so important. I know how hard it is when one person has to work late, or the children are fussy and crabby preschoolers, but just keep working at it; it gets better. Just because they didn’t used to like a food doesn’t mean they won’t now.
I think so much of eating healthy and learning to try new things is learned and can be supported by the family during meals together. I notice that when we talk about the exotic places in the world the various dishes come from, how the food is prepared, or what vitamins and nutritional values are in the different foods, it seems to make the kids more adventurous and appreciative of the food they are eating.
Learning about good manners (taking turns speaking and listening, using silverwear, putting a napkin on your lap, helping to set the table, etc.) are also important social skills that are learned and reinforced by family dinners together.
My kids are tweens and teens. I have found it nearly impossible to get them to sit down at the table together as a family, even when they were little . My one trick is to invite one of their friends over for dinner. It seems like a desperate move but firstly, people sit together for a whole 15 minutes (before they find they need to urgently i.m. someone) and secondly, the friends often compliment me on the dinner in front of my kids (unlike my children who pretty much hate everything I make. ) I like the positive feedback. It’s pretty demoralizing to put effort into cooking when people are so unappreciative so I end up nuking Trader Joes more than I can believe. I am an excellent cook.(But so is TJ)
I wish I had been successful at enforcing the family meal earlier but I must say, it is very difficult if both parents are not on the same page about this idea. My partner does not see it as a top priority so the kids see that there is a choice: eat miserably together like Mom wants us to, or eat whenever, like Dad does. Unfortunately a strong marriage is often the most necessary ingredient for a family meal.
Hi, Alma. My name is Pamela and I live in DC. Just found your blog recently and am really enjoying it – thanks!
Just wanted to let you know that your maple-soy salmon recipe is a BIG HIT. We made it for dinner the other night to rave reviews, and now I just had a friend and her daughter over for lunch and they had leftovers — and loved it!! Their names are Jodi and Charlotte – you may know them 🙂