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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Family Dinner Part 2

There was a disturbing article in MY Sunday paper (NYT) with the title,“The Guilt-Trip Casserole” by Jan Hoffman. The nut graph was that a study by CASA (Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse) at Columbia University found that teenagers who ate less than 3 times a week were more likely to turn to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs than those who dined with their families 5 times a week (Dined? Obviously the fact gatherers haven’t eaten with a monosyllabic teenager or an obnoxious 10 year old).Families are stretched thin and time is on the short side. Cooking has been getting the short sheet for many years. Pierre Franey wrote a couple of cookbooks for the 60 minute gourmet back in prehistoric cooking times of the '70's. Today RR is doing it in 30 minutes and there is a series of cookbooks using only 3-5 ingredients to make a tasty? meal.I won’t even mention another Julia Child wannabe who rips open bags of prepackaged stuff and finishes her show with a vodka slurpy. Food has been delegated to fuel (energy bars, drinks, fast food in the car) void of its leisure and mentally nurturing qualities.

How can we put quality back into eating if we are ripping open packages of pre-cut vegetables or bagged cooked rice and zapping them?It’s not that we have to eat like the Romans and recline on pillows but like a nightly bedtime story it should be a time of staring at each other and brushing up on the technique of speaking to a person not a cel phone.We have to be reminded that we are a family unit and not just individuals careening around with head sets and lap tops. The family unit grew out of the love (or mistake) of two people and their commitment to the future. Children need to see how their parents or elders interact for better or for worse. It is the subconscious template for their future relationships.

When a job is hard to do and the rewards seem elusive we try to work around the elephant in the kitchen. This is what has happened to many parents today. Feeding a family sucks and it is a 365 day responsibility. It can be grueling and mind numbing. Keeping track of everyone’s likes and dislikes, or worse yet allergies, taxes even the most organized executive. Then we have the nonexistent “rave reviews” or thank yous. I’m not saying my generation was the golden age of family meals but it was a dictatorship in the kitchen. There also wasn’t the proliferation of restaurants on every corner. You ate at home, period.

To learn any skill there is a logic one must learn. Sewing? Knitting? Carpentry? Cooking? These all require a commitment to get to the next level. Cookbooks are written today to sell and tease most aren’t meant to help build a repertoire. Unless you have the culinary fire in your belly you won’t be the next Féran Adria but a few simple meals could turn you into a nurturing person.

I wish I had some concrete answers. My heart goes out to the cooking challenged it’s a hard road.

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