I know I've mentioned before that I really enjoyed Dinner: a Love Story.
It's a cookbook/food memoir/guide to having family dinners. It's such a pretty book, and even though I've read my sister's copy cover to cover I think I'm going to buy one for myself.
This book is just fun. Jenny Rosenstrach shares two of my passions, family and dinner. She has two girls, and in the book she writes about the way they've handled the dinner hour at different ages and stages....young married, newborn phase, toddlers, preschool age, and now elementary years.
I love dinner for so many reasons, not just the meal, but the ritual of cooking at home and coming to the table as a family. I also like the spirit in which it's the time of day to turn off the clock and relax and enjoy. This book validates my love for all these things.
As for the recipes, they are simple, economical, adventurous, and as my friend LM described them - approachable!
Here's how Dinner a Love Story got me thinking how I could do dinner better and make my food and cooking life more enjoyable....
The impression I get from the book is that Jenny makes dinner for four (the size of her family). I'm sure she has some leftovers, but I don't get the idea that she is making the massive quantities of food I'm making. I've decided I make too much food, and it burns me out. I either overestimate how much we are going to eat or I tend to think if I'm already going to double the recipe, then why not quadruple it and freeze it?
This has led me evaluate about the way I use my deep freezer. I'm leaning towards storing more unprepared food versus already cooked dishes. Frozen fish, chicken, ground beef, and vegetables verses prepared lasagna, sauces, or casseroles. I like the idea of being able to "shop" my freezer, and this method also lends itself to healthier meals. Sure, the already prepared dish is wonderful. But more often than not I stress myself out filling the freezer with cooked dishes when the original intent was to reduce stress. Or worse, I buy a bunch of food for a freezer cooking session that never happens. Of course I will still freeze meals, but it takes a load off for that not to be my main focus so often. One bag of frozen chili is so great. Do I really need six? I clearly have a food hoarding problem and it's taking some of my joy out of the dinner hour.
Also, Jenny seems to embrace the process of preparing dinner. She sips on a drink, she gets her kids involved (or gets them uninvolved depending on their age). Truthfully, I don't really mind the process all that much. And since I have declared this the year of simple food at my house, it's a good time to slow down and enjoy the process of cooking (and stop acting like the army is coming over for dinner every night).
Family dinner is an art, one worth making a priority. Food takes time, but that time can be fun and creative. That's the impression this book left me with.
Recipes I've tried from the book:
Tony's flank steak
black bean burritos
buternut squash soup
All can be found on the blog, Dinner a Love Story.
I'd like to note that Jenny worked outside the home for the majority of the years she writes about. So this book is more inspiring than intimidating especially for working mothers. And she writes a good deal about entertaining, too. Read it, and let me know what you think!