I am about to give new meaning to the term conflict of interest. Last month, my wife Jenny Rosenstrach published a (truly awesome) cookbook-slash-memoir called Dinner: A Love Story that came out of a blog of the same name that came out of our nearly 20 years cooking, raising kids, and being boring married people together. Every recipe in this (beautifully written) book is real – in that we have cooked it many, many times in our house – as well as simple. The simple thing is worth repeating: Every one of the 110 recipes in this (unforgettable yet practical!) book are well within reach for anyone who can boil water, or read, for that matter. No expertise required. There are no claims in this book about how family dinner will keep your kids off drugs or get them into Yale; only that family dinner is something we’ve come to rely on every day as a shared purpose, a ritual, a sanity-saver. After much wrangling, my (funny and talented) wife agreed to answer a few questions about the book, and how to make (an incredibly tasty) family dinner a reality in your home. – Andy
Andy Ward: How do you get kids off of chicken nuggets?
Jenny Rosenstrach: I haven’t yet! Think back to two nights ago when we were cooking for 17 people and presented that enormous platter of beautiful mahi-mahi tacos with cilantro-lime slaw and fresh corn salad but the kids went right for the chicken fingers on the “kids” table. It’s impossible to compete with those things — they’re so crispy and salty and fatty and good! So I guess the best advice I have is to eliminate all traces of nuggets and fingers within 50 miles of your children. And also to know how to make Grandma Jody’s Crispy Breaded Chicken Cutlets which will kick Tyson’s butt any day of the week.
Andy: How do you get kids to eat things like Brussels sprouts?
Jenny: You treat them like the latest wonder product from Apple and market the hell out of them. Think of a good product name like “Little lettuces” or “Baby cabbages!” If they have ever deigned to touch them somewhere else (like at Grandma’s or Uncle Matt’s) then you brand them “Uncle Matt’s Brussels” to make it sound familiar and comfortable. And if they try a bite, you throw a party. You tried it! Congratulations! Wooooooohoooooo! Good for you!
Or you could just make David Chang’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with the mint, fish sauce and Rice Krispies. No one with a pulse can turn those down.
Andy: One family meal left on earth. What’s your menu: main course, salad, side and dessert.
Jenny: French fries with a side of French fries with French fries for dessert. Could there be a more perfect food? Well, maybe apricots. I’d take a huge bowl of the ripest, juiciest apricots, too.
Andy: If you had to pick one cardinal rule of family dinner, what would it be?
Jenny: I think the hardest part about this whole family dinner thing is deciding to do it. My book hopefully offers everything you need to execute family dinner on a regular basis – easy, kid-friendly recipes, stories, tips gleaned from all my women’s magazine jobs over the years – but the one thing it can’t do for you is make the choice to commit to dinner. No one can do that but you. I will say that once I made the choice, it was a decision that built on itself. When you start cooking good food, your family will look forward to it. You will look forward to it. You will get addicted to eating well and watching your family eat well. You will get better at cooking and organizing and start seeing it less as a chore and more as a reward.