Monday, January 07, 2013

The Evolution of Family Dinner

2013 started out in the best way possible, with a big pile of books patiently waiting to be devoured. For the past few days, I've been reading Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach.

Image: Goodreads
Part cookbook and part memoir, this book chronicles the evolution of family dinner for one American family- from life as a young professional couple to the time of young parenthood and raising two kids under two, to the present time when parents and school-going kids gather at the dinner table.

In many cultures, cooking dinner every night would be the absolute norm; but in the US, eating out every night or relying on frozen meals is not unusual at all, which is what makes this book a good resource for families who are trying to get into the habit of cooking and eating family dinner. Interspersed through the book are essays, tips and this family's favorite recipes.

Interestingly, from an early time in her married life, the author kept a daily dinner diary (she's been doing this for over 14 years). Just a line scribbled in a notebook noting the dinner menu of the day. The book contains several pictures of pages from her  notes. I can see how this little habit can be quite useful in many ways. For very little effort, one could have a mini-diary of family life, with mentions of celebratory meals and birthday dinners, as well as records of weeks and months of hurried meals and frequent take-out meals when a big work project was underway, say, or when the family welcomed a new baby. On a more practical level, one could see at a glance what the most popular meals on the dinner rotation are- a useful tool for those moments when you feel like you're completely out of ideas about what to make for dinner tonight.

I was so inspired by this idea that starting last week, I started keeping a dinner diary of my own. It is a plain old lined notebook with a little pen tucked into it, and my cue to write a 10 second dinner note is when I'm turning down the kitchen light for the night.

There was some stuff in this book that did not resonate with me. The author's frequent and lengthy essays on mommy guilt, for instance. Guilt is so boring and unproductive- I avoid it at all costs. This family's eating habits are very meat and fish-centric so I did not find the recipes in this book very useful, although there is a recipe for salad pizza that looks just delicious. Finally, I would have to say that her blanket rule of not having family dinner with kids under 3 is ludicrous. It can work very well for some families- more often than not, our 15 month old eats with us at the table, eating the same dinner we're eating. I'm not saying that it always works, or that it will continue to work for us as schedules (and levels of pickiness) change, but there's no reason to strongly advise parents to not even try.

There are several things in this book that I really really identified with. The first is her acknowledgement family dinner is a family affair, in the sense that in a 2-parent household, there has to be equality and both parents have to do their share of household chores. The other idea that resonated with me is this basic love for family dinner. There is so much joy in coming together in the kitchen, chatting and playing and making dinner together. We go to work to earn our daily bread, or rozi roti as the expression in Hindi goes. The dinner hour is when we get the joy of actually translating that dough that we earn into real bread for our table. Microwaving a frozen dinner just does not have that same feel to it. The third valuable take-away lesson from this book is that there's no need to strive for perfection- just do the best you can.

As I read about the author's chronicles about family dinners over the years, I enjoyed thinking about my own experience with family dinner throughout my life. Dinners as a child were often eaten with my sister because my parents typically worked in the evenings- picture two picky eaters trying to eat together, staring unwillingly at their plates. While attending junior college in Mumbai, I lived with an aunt who hated to cook (and who hadn't a clue about balanced nutrition or parenting at the time- that all has completely changed since then), and dinners were usually food delivered from nearby restaurants or get this- Pepsi and chips. Isn't this what all teenagers dream about? And yet, I got sick of it and started to cook on my own. Later, there were dinners with my uncle and his family where the whole family ate dinner while watching Looney Tunes because the only way the toddler cousin would eat was while staring at Cartoon Network. Then followed dinners at hostel at graduate school, sitting with a gang of girlfriends frowning at the green mush of a subzi- but by then, I was well over my pickiness and ate the green mush very enthusiastically.

The first time I had access to a kitchen was in graduate school in NYC. My roommate happened to be American and vegetarian, and she and I took turns cooking dinner. In return for cooking and cleaning every other night, we got to enjoy a hearty home-cooked meal every single night- what a great deal. She often made falafel (from a box), tofu (dredged in egg and breadcrumbs and fried- SO good), homemade pizza, tortilla soup (that I still make very often). I often made chana masala, egg curry and pasta. We may have been overworked students on modest stipends but we ate like royalty.

And then there are the last few years, where V and I have been enjoying family dinners by ourselves, with friends and with our baby. Our dinner time seems to be moving to an earlier hour all the time- it started as 8 PM in NYC, then 7 PM in St. Louis and now we eat at 6 PM. (I live my life by the clock and when we really do eat on the hour, on the dot.) With my fondness for early dinner, it can be hard when we visit friends/relatives who think nothing of eating dinner at 9 PM or even later. I'm practically fainting with hunger by then.

The one glaring (and blaring) thing I need to change about our family dinner these days is to learn to switch off the TV. Our dinner time is 6 PM and that's just the time when I feel like having the local and national news on in the background. It is a horrid habit. I need to convince myself that the news is not worth watching anyway, and we should focus on enjoying dinner and conversation.

So that's my rambling essay about family dinner. This book is going to be listed under the Foodies Read challenge on my 2013 Reading Challenges page. Yes, I managed to join a couple more challenges before the new year began.

Today, I woke up with a plan- I had a new recipe to try that I was quite sure would make it into our dinner rotation. I was going to run to the store to pick up some vegetables, then cook and blog about the  recipe in this post. But you know the old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men going down the tubes? Something to that effect. (Sorry, Robert Burns.) Well, after several weeks of enjoying good health, our poor Dale is very sick today. So I'm staying home and trying to make him comfortable. Last time he got this way, he bounced back very well, and we are keeping our fingers crossed that he recovers again. I'll see you next week with an update, and maybe even a new recipe or two.

Your turn- tell me something about dinner in your family. 

68 comments:

  1. Dinner in my family? Very sadly it is eaten alone by each of us. One of us feeds the kiddo while the other person eats in front of the TV. Then the person who finishes eating takes the kiddo for a bath. Now person 2 eats in front of the TV. Excuses for this behavior 1. Kiddo is an extremely picky eater and needs a lot of cajoling to eat. 2. We love our TV time - so each person gets to watch what they want 3. This is the only time we watch TV as we are mostly working after kiddo goes to sleep.
    My New Year resolution for this year is to start having atleast 1 meal per week together as a family.
    I love your idea of a dinner diary. Maybe you could post some snaps of it after a few weeks, no?:)

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    1. Well, you're going with what works at the moment, and it will evolve with time. I think 1 meal a week together is a great start. Kids are such copycats; your son might see mom and dad eating and enjoying their dinner and decide to join in and eat by himself.

      I don't know about posting snaps of the dinner diary (my handwriting is beyond atrocious) but might type some of it out if folks are interested.

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  2. I loved this - 'The dinner hour is when we get the joy of actually translating that dough that we earn into real bread for our table' I could so relate to it, having a simple and soul-satisfying homemade dinner made after a hard day's work really makes you realise that and I can't help feeling immense gratitude for that feeling every single time.

    We have an early dinner around 5pm as soon as me and hubby are back from work. We cook whatever we are in the mood for, mostly its simple Indian food but soup with bread/ noodles/ salad, pizza, pasta, stir-fry's do make occasional appearances at dinner and are happily devoured.

    Hope Dale feels better soon. Lots of warm 'get well soon' wishes to him.

    - Priti

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    1. Thanks for the wishes for Dale. He's sleeping now but his breathing is shallow and we're frankly very worried. Can't do much at the moment except keep him comfortable.

      Hey, you guys eat even earlier than us, and I thought I was setting a record here ;) Your meals sound very similar to ours.

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  3. Loved this post :) I hope Dale feels better soon.
    Dinner in our household of two is a quiet, TV-free affair. Me and hubby are not too fond of TV and dont have cable, so on most days we end up eating at the dining table, sharing the happenings of the day! I hope it stays this way, though! We both cook in turns, and so even when cooking the other will be loitering about in the kitchen, eating cut up tomatoes and veggies :D.
    When I was staying alone or with a roomie as a student, dinners were always in front of laptop, studying while eating or watching some videos. And looking back, I absolutely hated doing that.
    -Neha

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    1. Neha- your dinners sound so cozy and utterly sweet- exactly what family dinner is all about. What a wonderful way to wrap up the day.

      I really need to kick the TV habit- eating while staring at a screen is far from the way I want to live. Sometimes old habits die hard though.

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  4. Sending a lot of good wishes and hugs to Dalu dada, hope he feels well real soon.
    2013 seems better on the home front for me! M has a new job and it is....local ( I actually wanted to type it in caps!) After 4.5 years of being a weekend family, we are finally together! It is such a great feeling to have him come home for lunch and dinner, yep! BOTH!
    Dinner is Dad and son eating together and Mom feeding Son and serving Dad. After they are done, I sit and enjoy my dinner. hush!
    I keep a party planning book. I write in it all the details, the Menu, lists, options etc. Dinner dairy sounds nice and why not! just a line or two to see how and what goes on.

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    1. I'm SO happy for you, Manasi. Traveling every week for week is so stressful both for the parent who travels and the one who holds down the fort at home. I hope you have wonderful family times together.

      Would your son consider eating by himself so you can sit and eat with them? Would your hubby take turns serving you now that's he around for dinner every night? Of course, I know different things work for different families. Your party planning book is a very nice idea to remember what dishes were hits etc.

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  5. Oh, one of my favorite topics - where to start? ha ha

    The book sounds great - I had heard about it before and really should pick it up myself. I was brought up with family dinners (felt so sorry for you lack of them growing up!) and it is an important daily ritual in our house.

    I was a bit appalled when you mentioned the author doesn't believe in including kids below 3 - how on earth do you expect kids to have broad palates and learn how to act at dinner if you don't include them? We've had family dinners all along - when it was just hubby and I, when our kids were babies and toddlers, and now that they are 14 and 18 (yup, the 18-yr old still loves to eat with us when he is home from college - says he misses it when he's away!) Like you, we tend to eat early - sometimes 5 pm! and rarely past 6 pm, and I die of hunger when were are with people who eat much later. The early hour allows time for homework after dinner or going to soccer practice (some years we would actually eat at 4:30 to fit it in together and before soccer!)

    And I love to cook. I am a bit limited because I can't stand for long due to a chronic illness, so I search out quick and easy (though still tasty and healthy) meals.

    I will have to check out the book - and your 2013 challenge, since I haven't chosen mine yet!

    Sue

    Book By Book

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    1. Thanks for the lovely comment, Sue. It is nice to hear from parents of older kids to see what worked and what the kids liked. I hope family dinner because a daily ritual for us too.

      Yeah, the author makes several arguments about why she thinks dinner with young kids is not a good idea- but I honestly don't buy a single one of her arguments. I think you'll enjoy reading this book though.

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  6. Happy New Year Nupur to you, V, Lila and Dale. I had mulled over the family dinner issue last year. Finally realized all 4 of us eating dinner together gets too hectic for me. 1), I need to drink my tea once I reach home 2) the kids need dinner early 3)the kids have activity classes 2/3 times a week which I rush them to after reaching home
    So now their dinner time is earlier than ours. BS eats and I feed LS while watching a recorded version of Caillou or Arthur. Love those and I rarely watch TV so this is my TV time mostly. Since it is their show and mostly reruns we also talk while they eat/I feed. No one is really engrossed in the show. I also sip my tea same time !!!

    If the husband is not traveling, then me and D eat later, no TV. I can eat eat peacefully that way and also talk.

    I have a mind to note down what I pack for BS's lunch every day of this month, the author's idea of noting down what they ate over the years sounds very interesting.

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    1. Your tea time hanging out with your girls sounds lovely! It would be a great idea to note down lunch menus to gather ideas in one spot and avoid the eternal question of what to pack for lunch every day.

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  7. Good wishes for Dale's speedy recovery! Would you be able to post the tortilla soup recipe? I've been searching for a while and your recipes never fail :)

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    1. Bek- your wish is my command :D Here's the tortilla soup recipe:
      http://onehotstove.blogspot.com/2005/04/imbb14-orange-you-glad-i-made-tortilla.html

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  8. Lovely post Nupur!

    In our family of two, we eat at the dinner table exchanging notes about the day and of course savouring the food (which may have been cooked by either of us). No TV during meal-times is a rule in our house. We plan to extend that to smartphones and tablets as well :)

    One of the things we've been experimenting with is cooking in the morning. We make sabzi for our lunch. Dinner is leftover sabzi, roti + rice and dal and maybe a salad. Dinner time cooking effort is putting the cooker on and making some aamti and salad.

    I prefer this arrangement to cooking dinner and packing leftovers for next day's lunch because it minimizes the junk we eat when we are back from office and evening time is much more relaxed with minimal cooking.

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    1. Your meal times sound relaxing and a wonderful way to bring the day to a close. It is nice to hear how different folks find different ways of making meals work- for myself, I know I'd rather cook a quick evening meal rather than in the morning but in my parents' home, they do just this: fresh meals in the morning and then quick add-on/leftovers for dinner.

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  9. Happy New Year to you Nupur and yours!

    First, sending lots of +ve vibes for Dale. Hope he feel better soon!

    In last December I decided to keep a 'dinner journal', counting one of good habits in new year and I've started to note down in simple notebook, kept in my kitchen cupboard. Let's see how useful it would be.

    I'm not big fan of watching TV while eating, I get frowned with my poor hubby's old habit [as usual common problem in most homes] I hope he will try to change his habit sometime soon.

    Love to Leela!

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    1. Thanks for the sweet wishes and I hope the year is wonderful for you too.

      It is definitely hard when one spouse is more into TV watching while eating! In our case, I'm usually that spouse ;) but I'm trying to change that.

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  10. Happy New Year! Nupur.
    Poor Dale, hope he feels better soon.

    Most days we eat dinner at the same time, not together, that's partially because of me wanting to watch TV (which is mostly the only time I get). Some times it is all of us eating in front of the TV.

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    1. I hear ya, but I'm trying to convince myself that I can watch TV after dinner, because honestly I need to pay more attention to the food.

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  11. There's no telling when the hubby will get back from work in the evening so we have a coffee on the balcony and breakfast together ritual in our family of two! once a week dinner together is my resolution for this year, So far, on target, but its only been a week.

    I hope Dale is better soon.

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    1. SO sweet, and a wonderful idea for other busy couples! I love the idea of a morning ritual to start the day.

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  12. Hi Nupur , I read your bog regularly. I have tried few recipes which have all turned out great. But more than the recipes, I visit your blog because I LOVE the way you write. Also the more you tell about your life the more I am impressed and wish I could live my life like you.
    You had written a lot of articles when you did that non stop everyday post event, which really helped. It was great to read your posts and got a lot to learn from them.
    Two things caught my attention in today's post -
    'Guilt is so boring and unproductive- I avoid it at all costs' - Such a short sentence but speaks volumes! Could you explain how you manage to do that please. I am curious to know if you consciously avoid all such thoughts or it's just that life has been so great that there is nothing really to feel sad or guilty about.
    Also your other comment ' I live my life by the clock ' caught my attention. I am always procrastinating everything. It would be great if you could tell us how you manage to do that. Do you have a schedule for yourself for everyday that you stick to no matter what? You seem to find time to do a LOT with a little baby at home. I have a toddler boy and always stressed about something or the other. I am looking forward to hear from you , I am sure you would have some tips that would help your readers.
    Thanks Nupur!
    - Anjali

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    1. hi Nupur,just curious,so does baby
      lila eat at 6 pm too,so isnt she hungry later on,or does she sleep by then?my 10 month old is also loving to eat with us dinner,nowadays she likes holding chappatis and munching idlis more than gulping soups and well only goes to bed when we do and still wakes up for feeds at nights!!

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    2. Anjali- when I feel guilty, I try to either (a) do something about it (eg. feeling guilty about not calling aunt- then make a note to call aunt every other Sunday), or (b) remind myself why I do it (eg. feeling guilty about leaving baby at daycare and going to work- reminded myself why I work- because a good family income will give her a stable future) or (c) forgive myself and let it go (eg. feeling guilty about being hurtful to friend- apologize, forgive yourself for a mistake and try hard not to do it again).
      As for living by the clock, it is just a way to make sure I do what needs to be done. Eg. if I sit and read/surf past 5:15 PM, I'll never have dinner ready by 6 PM and will be annoyed and crabby. Hence 5:15 PM is my cue to get moving. There are plenty of people who don't live by the clock and they're much more creative than me, so this is not for everyone.

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    3. Kangna- Lila eats at 6 PM, has a small cup of milk at 7 PM and then goes to bed. She often wakes at night, but gets shushed and patted back to sleep; she wakes quite early around 5-6 AM and immediately has milk/oatmeal. By 10 months, most babies can go the whole night (9 to 11 hour stretch) without needing feeds. Many times, if older babies wake up to feed, it is because of sheer habit. You could check with your doc and see if it is OK to just gently soothe your baby to sleep (offer plain water, maybe) without feeding her in the middle of the night.

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    4. thnks for the reply Nupur!!!baby Nainika cries hystericaly if offered to be rocked to sleep or given any other soother!!i dnt think its easy to brk her habit now,but thnkfully im a SAHM,so i can catch up on sleep later on in life!!!

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  13. Really good post . Very interesting points you have made too. Best wishes to Dale's quick recovery.
    Dinner time for me is with my sons ,I love cooking,they love eating and we talk and talk over food. And we eat at 6.30 too.Husband comes home late so it's just me keeping him company then.i guess the dining table is a good place to keep the conversation going....!

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    1. That's awesome- nothing like good animated dinner table conversation to bond with your kids!!

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  14. It is an interesting idea, to note down the dinner of the day. We always have a family dinner (Except on rare occasions when one of wants to skip or eat at a later time.)

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    1. Yeah, I thought it was a neat idea too.

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  15. Happy new year to you all Nupur and hugs and lotso get well soon wishes to dear Dale.

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  16. I am glad I am not the only one who eats dinner between 6 and 7 pm! I realize that unfortunately, in our 2-person household, we both eat in front of the tv, and the only time the dining table was ever used for its intended purpose was when we had family visiting!
    And I hear you on feeling starved once my usual eating time. When we go back to India to visit, dinner is always so late, and at times has even been at 11 pm. 11 pm! Can you imagine that? I was of the mind that if we just waited a couple more hours, we would be in time for breakfast! Haha... noboby appreciated my humor though! ;)

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    1. LOL I hear ya, in St. Louis, the dining table was littered with my craft/sewing things most of the time. But here we're making it a point to eat dinner at the table.
      OK dinner at 11 PM is borderline ridiculous, and yet I know so many people who work late late late and then commute for hours and yes, eat that late. Such a different lifestyle.

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  17. In India, dinner was always a family meal, regardless of whether my father was at home or not, because the Indian Navy took him away from us regularly. Chores were clear, one of us helped with the phulkas, one with the koshimbir and the laying and clearing of the table was a shared chore. The telly came much later, but we always had to listen to AIR and the news read by (my earliest memory) "Lotika Ratnam". We had to walk a hundred steps after the dinner chores were done; in the monsoons, inside the house/flat. When my dad was home, it was his time with all of us and to know how our lives were doing. We always ate breakfast and dinner together, even when we were in school. But I was lucky, I had a stay at home mum and given that sometimes my father was away for long periods of time (Bangladesh was 22 months!) we all loved our meal times. However, when it came to our son, we did not eat with him, but we always had our aeritif with him whilst he ate dinner until he was old enough to eat later, as we do. We do not encourage the early (5 pm/6 pm) dinners as we have seen how his American friends gorge on cereal/ice cream/cookies in front of the telly. So we slowly increased his dinner time till he could eat with us. We don'thave much frozen foods, but we do have one Chinese evening a week. That is also our movie evening. Nowadays when we all work late, I get prepared vegetarian food from a lovely Andhra lady (low salt, low fat) and cook the meal surrounding it. In terms of prepared foods we have the odd Babu rolls, Chinese dumplings and empanadas in the freezer, usually as emergency appetisers when people stop by for drinks on the weekends. We are guilty these days of eating in front of the telly. In France, my in laws eat at 8, the usual time for us to eat in India as well, and both Pascal and I are comfortable with that. What is a pain is that when we eat in front of the telly, the cleaning up is a pain because I refuse to have a tv in the dining room or kitchen! When we go home (India or France), we have dinner with the parents and then go out with friends after that, which works since we dinner is done by 9 pm and after clearing up (although cleaning up after a French meal can be a serious pain.. too many darn utensils) we're off. In France we live in a village so we mostly walk everywhere which is great. In India, the thing that shocked my husband was the need to finish a bottle or three before dinner was served because he would be ravenous by the time dinner arrived... as Neha said, at 11! He's tried converting everyone we know into drinking with the meal to reduce the hunger pangs (although nowadays with those heavy snacks) and the after effects of the alcohol on an empty stomach! :-)Ujwala

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    1. Ujwala- I really enjoyed hearing about your memories of family dinners as a child and as an adult! The 100 steps after dinner is SUCH a sensible idea instead of lying on the couch like a beached whale (which is, ahem, what I tend to do).

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  18. Firstly - Loads and Loads of Love hugs and best wishes to Dale !
    He will be fine soon, am sure.

    We always had our dinner together, may now its simple to say as we are just two so having dinner without TV is something we love cos that's the time we talk about our full day.
    And dinner is mostly leftover sabzi from morning and dal rice or anything else that does not take more than 20 mins.Simple and humble :)

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    1. Simple and humble is the best thing there is- your meal times sound wonderful- eat and chat :)

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  19. Very nice post.Hope Dale recovers soon.
    We've always had family dinners.Even when my kids were little,I fed them before we ate but they usually sat with us and played or ate some finger food.Even if I have to serve dinner to my kids earlier than 7 p.m. (now my kids are 11 and 9),I sit with them and atleast eat a snack or drink coffee..the important thing is definitely to turn off the TV.The only thing that's eaten in front of a T.V is popcorn or snacks during family movie nights.
    There was a time when I was commuting 80 miles in a day for work and I used to plan all my meals and put it on excel spreadsheet.It worked very well,and when you have to write down something,it makes you want to write healthy good dishes..not -pepsi and chips!!!
    We like eating early too.Hubby doesn't get home until 7,so dinner time is 7 but left to me I would eat at even 4!I agree with you about suffering when in company of people who eat very late..
    GKB

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    1. I like your TV policy! And I totally agree- when you write things down, it makes you more aware of how it is.

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  20. Great post, Nupur. I always included my daughter at the dinner table whenever possible. I think it's a good practice. We hardly ever get to eat together now that she's grown, but when we do it's lovely. I try very hard to always eat at the table because it's so easy to mindlessly shovel food in if I'm not paying attention to what I'm doing. Hugs and kisses to dear Dale! I hope he's on the mend soon.

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    1. That's just it, Holly- TV is so correlated with mindless eating for me. Your dinners with your daughter sound lovely!

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  21. Hey Nupur,

    Long time since I dropped a line although I have been a regular visitor of your blog. Hope all is well on your side. Sorry to hear about Dale. Hope he feels better soon!

    Dinner time to me is very refreshing after a long day at work. I cook most evenings something simple,healthy and maximum time spent is no more than 30-45 minutes.I don't have kids yet..Hubby and I enjoy fresh meals on the table. Some days it is as simple as Kichdi but still we enjoy eating together especially when food is fresh and warm.

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    1. I agree with you- there's so much pleasure in eating a meal that's fresh and warm, no matter how quickly made.

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  22. BTW forgot to mention. So far I have tried chawli curry(multiple times),cabbage self saucing curry,Vaal curry from your recipe collection. Each time it has turned out delishhhh.
    Thanks for sharing Nupur!
    Could you tell me what Goddu masala is? Can I make it at home? or any substitute?
    I am from Bangalore, India residing in US. I have the usual rasam and vanghibath powders from home, I call it magic powders :) can turn any dish to tasty one!

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    1. Goda masala is a Maharashtrian spice blend. There are many recipes online if you want to make this at home. There's no real substitute but you can use garam masala or another spice blend (like your magic powders :)) to give a taste that is different but good.

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  23. Oh, so sorry to hear about Dale. Hope he gets better soon and bounces back like last time. From my own experience, I can say that animals have a tremendous willpower, which we can never imagine (especially when your pets know how much you love them). Wishing Dale a speedy recovery.

    Dinner journal is a great idea. Can you post a couple of pics of your dinner notes? Would love to see those :) We always have dinner together, but TV is something I too would definitely like to omit.

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    1. I'll definitely type up some of the dinner notes later this month. Don't know about posting pics because my scribble is barely legible (sometimes even for me).

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  24. When my son was 14 months we lost his father quite suddenly and I wanted him to understand that two people is still a family. Friends and family got us through the first few months of loss with meals dropped off and invitations to dinner but at some point it was just we two. I made sure we ate dinner at properly set table and said a prayer every night even when he was still in a high chair. We used clothe napkins, not to be fancy but because it’s less wasteful. As he got older he helped in the meal making process and the older he got the more he did. He started clearing the table at a very early age, setting it once he was a little older, and eventually doing dishes after dinner. He sometimes helped with cooking and occasionally prepared the entire meal. Some meals were very simple (quesadillas and salad) others more complicated but we still sat down every night and we both ate the same thing. No TV during dinner and the phone went unanswered; sometimes I turned the ringer off. Friday night we broke the no TV rule, had pizza delivered, and watched a movie. We both loved pizza night and have fond memories of dinner on the sofa and shared movie viewing history.

    My son will be 20 in March and often thanks me for our dinner routine/ritual and for letting him in the kitchen. He’s in his second year away at college and in his own place so he can do his own cooking. He can’t believe how little his friends know about cooking.

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    1. what a lovely story of you and your son, Angela! Your all training and hard work will paid off to you and yours, I'm sure :-)

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    2. Angela- You made me cry!! You are a wise and wonderful mother and an inspiration to us. Thank you so much for writing this note.

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  25. hey Nupur,

    Happy new year to you all!!! As many have commented, once again a very well written post. Since I live alone, dinner time is just me, but otherwise when I am at home with family, it has always been a "no TV" rule, with the entire family assembling at the dinner table with conversations flowing through. I think its a great great way to bond with each other. And yes, I completely agree that having food while watching tv is such a put off and i know many families who regularly do that. 6 pm dinner time is unthinkable for me, for I am still in office and by the time i reach home its easily 830. So to freshen up and cook after that, easily my dinner reaches 10/ 1030. Certainly not a good habit, but there is little i can do abt it. Just wanted to ask you, after such early dinners, dont u get night hunger pangs at 9 or so??

    Anyways, would love to hear more from you and your time management skills.
    Cheers
    Raakhee

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    1. Raakhee- you bring up a great point. Dinners alone can also be such a peaceful time and with others, it can bring people closer. Your schedule is definitely more typical of working people in big cities and I for one am always impressed that you guys work so hard, commute so long and still have the energy to make dinner and do other chores.
      After an early dinner, I tend to go to bed early too, around 9:30 PM. So truly, I'm only eating 3 hours before my bedtime which is ideal. Once in a while, I'll eat a small dessert but generally dinner keeps me full until bedtime.

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  26. Loved this post. Lots of things to think about. I love the idea of a dinner journal too. I'm trying my darndest to get into a daily writing/journaling habit of sorts - and this might do the trick. Most of my growing years were spent in a boarding school and dinner was always at 8pm in the dining hall, sitting in rows cross-legged on the ground next to my classmates. I just remember how we had a lot of deals and bartering going on - "if you eat my snake gourd subzi, I'll drink your glass of milk" kinda thing coz our plates had to be eaten clean.
    When I moved back home, my father always made a point of not starting his meal until we were all at the table. It annoyed my 18 yo self then, but I miss those days now.
    Now I have my own family dinner often feels like a chaotic affair with a very picky 2 yo (who has an overactive gag reflex) and a very squirmy 10 month old. We eat around 6pm and try to eat together with the TV off. But its hard and generally just ends up being a juggling act. I keep dreaming of peaceful family meals.....will happen someday. For now, just happy to get food onto the table and into everyone's bellies.
    Prashanti

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    1. If you're trying to get into journaling, then a daily dinner diary is about as low-maintenance as it can get. Literally takes 10 seconds to jot it down! I loved hearing your memories of boarding school dinners. Sounds like you're doing great eating with 2 little ones, and for sure these dinners will evolve as they grow so hang in there :)

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  27. Hi Nupur..

    Weeknight, dinner at my home is my toddler eating first because hubby is not back from work by 7 pm. He mostlz eats at the table while I chat with him about preschool etc..or anything that keeps him at the table. At times TV is what keeps him there !
    I eat later with hubby or on my own if he is not back by 9pm mostly watching TV. Sigh!

    But weekends are a different story. Both lunch and dinner together as a family. No TV.

    Good wishes to Dale.

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    1. Sounds like weekends are a special time for family meals! And as for weeknights, we all just do what we need to do, right?

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  28. Dinner's always been a family affair. No TV, no devices (although that last one is on hold while D's in India) and no books are allowed at the table. I've always made sure that we do not have a TV in the kitchen / dining / living areas. Music is always welcome. We do movie and dinner in front of the TV from time to time. Dinner time is special as it's the one time that we are together in the same place with no other distractions. We look forward to sharing our day, stories and thoughts. Dinner time can be anywhere from 6pm to past 10pm, with the latter being the norm on several days of the week when Ms M would get back from marching band practice. We would wait to eat with her as we all need our together time. It's the same story if either D or I have to work late -- she waits for us, tiding herself over with a small snack.

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    1. Our new house came with a TV mounted in the kitchen/family room and I have to say I enjoy watching it while doing dishes/cleaning counters! But you're right, music instead of TV is the way to go during dinner. Your family dinner sound cozy and fun!!

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  29. The book sounds really interesting!! I love salad and pizza but have never thought to make a salad pizza. We sometimes eat all together, sometimes separately. It depends on what everyone is doing, sometimes the timing to eat togehter is off. Holidays etc. are always together though.

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    1. I love salad and pizza too! And this salad pizza is basically plain pizza on which you spread salad right after baking- sounds yummy, right?

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  30. Dinner is also a family affair at our home - and a very cherished hour of the day. When we were just the two of us, we still ate together but always in front of TV. Now with Vedika around, it has actually been an improvement! No TV, no phones - just a quiet meal-time together. I also don't believe no family meals with <3yr olds. My daughter has been eating with us (and mostly the same food as ours - I rarely cook separately for her) since she was 10 months old and it works out great! She is so used to grabbing at our plates to try out things that are not in her plate - its quite interesting to watch.

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    1. Your mealtimes sound lovely! I was LOL because our little miss does the exact same thing- eats out of our plates.

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  31. Awesome post as always! Do you really have dinner at 6 pm, Nupur? Isn't that too early. We have dinner between 8 to 9 pm in India.

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    1. I go to bed at 9PM!! So 6 PM dinner works for me :)

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  32. Hi Nupur!

    I'm just now catching up on your posts. I've enjoyed the Dinner a love story blog for a year now so, I was happy to see your post. We have always eaten dinner at 7:30 with our 3 year old. With a new baby added to the family, we veered a bit from our routine. But, I went back to work last week and we are back to our old dinnertime of 7:30 and it actually feels good. Our daughter has started helping us in the kitchen and I can see that she truly enjoys it and she has started eating things that she had refused before. She used to hate avocados and after helping her dad mash them a couple of times, she tried and loved them and we now make guacamole at least once every week. She does a good job with tasks like peeling eggs, mixing dry ingredients for baking, tearing lettuce leaves etc. She also loves helping me make popsicles by pureeing fruits.

    We also do movie night on Fridays. Pick a kid friendly movie and all of fall and winter, Fridays are soup nights and then Spring and summer they are pizza nights. We don't watch TV the rest of the week but, I wanted to say don't beat yourself up about watching TV during dinner. Every family has their own habits and it's not like you're watching trashy TV.

    I also menu plan and shop for the week. The weeks that I don't do it, I end up being stressed out. And Sundays are my prep day, I spend 3 hours in the morning prepping veggies, breakfasts for the week.

    I am sure dinnertime with evolve as our baby grows older and our 3 year old starts school and after school activities but, this seems to be working well for us now.

    -Anu

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    1. What fun, Anu! I love love love your idea of Friday movie nights with seasonal meals. Thank you for sharing your routine- you have so many things figured out just right.

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