Archive for the ‘family dinner’ Tag

Ode to Effort   3 comments

MrsMowryA long time ago, not very far away, I began a phase in my life where I tried to cook. Things didn’t go smoothly. The food I made in my parent’s kitchen as a 13-year-old wasn’t good enough for the dog to eat, let alone my human family. However, I had to cook for someone in order to practice for my Foods class at school. My poor family suffered (Don’t let me make cinnamon rolls. EVER.).  Anyway, after I passed this junior high elective (How? I still don’t know. Thank goodness for group work.), I gave up any hope of  learning how to cook…until I met my future mother-in-law.

As Henry has mentioned before, Velda is a wizard in the kitchen (He might have given her other titles, but I lean towards the spell-casting folk. Personal preference, if you will). We’ve spent many a night packed around the kitchen table, eating to our hearts’ content. When our family of ten (now eleven!) gathers for a meal, we need two sets of bowls for each side dish. Otherwise, it would probably take 20 minutes to get a single bowl passed around the table!  The conversation is filled with jokes about making sure there is a bowl of mashed potatoes set aside specifically for me, or casting family votes on some silly topic (usually not in my favor).  We watch as Christopher gets all of his food last (usually Lauren has already cleaned her plate). At meal’s end, we help move empty plates to the kitchen and congratulate Velda on another great meal. Our star chef loves the praise, but doesn’t always want to be alone in the kitchen. This is where I came in.

I began my part in the Mowry Cucina as a sous-chef. I did small things like chop garlic and mix sauces. Occasionally I would season chicken or man the stir-fry. Though my jobs were small, it felt important and I enjoyed doing it. When Michael went away to college, Lauren and I spent time in the kitchen with Velda learning how to cook. We started the clamor for VMICA: The Velda Mowry Institute of Culinary Arts. Later, Jeremy and Michael joined the crew and started cooking. That didn’t last long, but it was definitely fun! Lauren and I were the first graduating class.  As we got more confident we did more complicated things. I would make a side dish, or bake some rolls. Lauren would make sauces or put together salads. When Velda hurt her back at work and couldn’t cook, I was named temporary chef. I remember the first meal I made … it was awful. I put way too much raw garlic in the potatoes. Overcooked the chicken. Burnt the broccoli. It was a Murphy’s Law type of dinner and everyone ate it. They were too kind. It still haunts me.

Years have passed since that day and I like to believe I’ve gotten much better. I love to cook. I’m not amazing, but hope I get an “A” for effort. I have my own set of signature dishes that the family enjoys, and I torture my husband with my cooking at home. Since we’ve gotten so focused on losing weight, finding ways to make healthy meals that taste good has been very difficult. You never know how much whole milk and real butter make a dish taste amazing until you can’t use them. But sometimes, the point of making dinner isn’t to impress your guests with your cooking, it’s to spend time with the people you love. I know that’s cliché, but it’s true. We spend our entire family dinner laughing, telling stories, talking about our lives. We make faces at our beautiful niece and mock each other endlessly. Eating family dinner happens two or three nights a week, which is rare for most families. Before college, family dinner was five nights a week. We’re lucky the food is great, but we’re luckier to have each other.

I cook because I love to assemble ingredients and go grocery shopping. I cook because I love food. But, mainly, I cook because I love to have a reason to surround myself with my friends and family.


Management and Parenting: Making It Work

Tammy’s Top Ten Reasons to Have Family Dinners

(ed. note: MrsMowry cooks fine meals ... and she sets a great table, too!)

(ed. note: MrsMowry cooks fine meals … and she sets a great table, too!)

Management and Parenting: Making It Work   5 comments

Our electronic tether has become shorter and shorter.  I used to train my sales reps that they had 24 hours to return a phone call.  Today, that would seem hopelessly unresponsive.

The average 18-24 year old exchanges about 16 text messages every waking hour according to Pew Research.

A client contacted you?  You had better respond within the hour.  And if you don’t respond within 5 minutes, you may well frustrate your client just as assuredly as you would frustrate a comically insecure girl.  Watch “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” if you need a refresher on what happens when you are unresponsive to a person of the opposite sex (and it’s a good romantic comedy as well).

HOWEVER, what’s good for your professional life is anathema to your personal life.  I believe you should have 1 appointment and 1 rule for your family every day.  Every day.

Every single day.

1. Your family should eat together every evening.  That’s difficult with a baby, of course, and it’s difficult with a teenager.  But you need to make it happen every possible day.  It doesn’t matter if you are doing home cooking (though that is great — even if you are a lousy cook like me).  It does matter that you sit down as a family and break bread as a family.  Work schedules will interfere; high school activities will as well.  Do your best:  eat together absolutely as often as possible.

2. Electronic devices are not allowed.  No television, no cellphones.  No one answers their phone while at the dinner table.  A musical background is recommended:  music is good for the soul.  But no cellphones.  No text messages. No handheld gaming systems. No iPads.  None.

Our family dinners were so good — and yes, Velda’s cooking was so good — that Alley’s # 1 choice for a wedding gift was a cookbook of family recipes. That became a part of her wedding celebration, with recipes contributed by family and friends.  It’s important to build memories with your family.

Normal Rockwell was right: family dinners are important, and not just when turkey is being served.

What’s the purpose of dinner?  Sharing thoughts about your day, your week, your life — with everyone and for everyone.  Young children learn how adults think.  Adults learn how teenagers think.  And that’s good for every member of your family.  The benefits accrue gradually, over years.  Share a laugh, share an idea, share your life.

I was struck last weekend by a young boy exiting a very nice restaurant with his family.  He was so engrossed in his video game that he couldn’t see to walk out of the restaurant.  He bumped into strangers.  He bumped into hard objects like chairs and walls.  What did Mom do?  She caught up to him, grabbed his head, and steered him between the obstacles so he wouldn’t lose his place in his game.

What did he learn?  Mom would be in charge and it didn’t matter what he did: he could be remote, unengaged and rude.  Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful future employee?  Husband?  Father?

What did Mom learn?  That her son needs her to be in charge, as he’s unable to cope in polite society.  She’s a future helicopter parent, the scourge of teachers and colleges everywhere.

If you have young children, start this today.  If you have older children, start this today.  If your kids are grown up and out of the nest, then begin having an appointment meal at least once a week.

If you’re already doing it, you have my thanks.  If you don’t do this … you’re missing it.

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