Book Review: The Family Dinner

The countdown is on – one week from today, children across the province will be heading back to school. I think most parents look at this date on the calendar and a little sigh of relief escapes. But for many of us, this is quickly followed by a twinge of regret; the less structured days of summer are behind us, routine and regimen will reign once more, which often means that family time will be squeezed down to a bare minimum: the dinner hour. If this sounds familiar, then I offer up three books to renew enthusiasm for your daily family meal. Each one provides some tasty new ways to connect with your kids, both in the kitchen and around the dinner table.

The Cleaner Plate Club: More Than 100 Recipes for Real Food Your Kids Will Love, by Beth Bader and Ali Benjamin.  Storey Publishing, 2010. $19.95

Part cookbook, part manifesto for children’s health, The Cleaner Plate Club aspires to spread a love of fresh, whole foods. A collaboration between two mothers, this book acknowledges the challenges in getting children to accept unprocessed foods in today’s food culture, and offers strategies to overcome these challenges successfully. What is particularly impressive is how they manage to serve up a load of information on nutrition without coming across as preachy. New cooks will enjoy the thorough introduction to whole grains and vegetables, including selection and storage tips as well as suggested favourite preparations. Parents who fall into all cooking levels can appreciate the “Faster-than-drive-thru-dinners” list (pages 176-177) for those nights when you want to get something on the table in fifteen minutes or less. Find the Cleaner Plate Club blog here.

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory – More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Wizards and Non-Wizards Alike, by Dinah Bucholz. Adams Media, 2010. $23.99

If you’ve got a hard core Harry Potter fan in your household, you’ll want to get your hands on a copy of this book. Chapters have clever titles, such as Good Food with Bad Relatives, or  Treats from the Train. The recipe list reads mostly like an ode to classic British cookery, but each one is introduced with a reference to the book that mentions the food in question, allowing you to recreate any feast from the series. This book would be an excellent resource for any Harry Potter themed birthday party.

The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time, by Laurie David with recipes by Kirtin Uhrenholdt, Grand Central Life & Style, 2011. $33.99

This is a book to dip into again and again for inspiration – recipes are interspersed with anecdotes, tips, quotations, games and more. Sprinkled with a large pinch of star sparkle, with “words of wisdom” contributed by Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, Jamie Oliver, Tom Hanks and more, Laurie David has assembled a collage-style love letter to the family dinner hour. The Caramelized Sweet Potatoes with Quinoa and Greens (p.116) from the “Meatless Mondays” chapter has become a favourite at my table. The chapter entitled “Two Homes, One Table” offers tips for keeping the family dinner going after divorce, while  the “Table Talk” chapter prompts new avenues for dinner conversations.


Written By:

Rebecca Baugniet is a freelance food writer and editor living on Canada’s West Coast with her husband and their four children. The author of three published cookbooks, Rebecca has also written for EAT Magazine and for Montréal ...

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