Cooking Time Is Family Time: Cooking Together, Eating Together, and Spending Time Together
Cooking Time Is Family Time: Cooking Together, Eating Together, and Spending Time Togetherby Lynn Fredericks
William Morrow & Co., 288 pp., $25
There was a study somewhere that sought to determine the factors that went into "successful" students. While monetary and familial stability certainly played a part, the study concluded that the most significant factor was the frequency with which a family ate dinner together. The study was interesting on a purely theoretical level until I reflected on my childhood and the habits that I have in place now that I have a child of my own. I cherished the rituals of mealtime in my youth, and I can see the same sense of comfort and communion in my daughter when the family sits down together and breaks bread. Author Lynn Fredericks came upon this realization when she observed that her family mealtime had degenerated into food in front of the TV while she talked on the phone with various friends, family, etc. So she set about to include her sons in the preparation of the evening meal rather than trying to get the food out in the quickest manner possible so she could attend to her own matters. And she found that not only did the mealtime become cherished and personal, the prep time became a time for the family to share their observations and experiences of the day. In other words, they communed.
Cooking Time Is Family Time contains Fredericks' recipes for success in the kitchen and on the dining table. And they are a far cry from the children's cookbook recipes I remember from my mother's books. Polenta, risotto, fava beans, Thai chicken, Japanese eggplant: These are just some of the items that find their way onto the table with this book. And for the most part, they are delectable and surprisingly acceptable to children. The creamy polenta with spinach was a huge hit in this house, although next time I'll cut back on the anchovies. Chicken with risotto and rosemary, tomatoes, and mushrooms was equally successful. Not all the recipes are exotic. There's roast chicken, navy bean soup, tortillas with black beans (maybe this is considered wildly exotic in Kansas City, but here in Texas babies are weaned on beans and tortillas). The instructions are quite specific about which tasks should be handled by kids and exactly how they should be executed, which is nice for parents making their first attempt to incorporate their children into the food prep process. Some of the advice seems unnecessarily specific, such as instructing adults to remove the sharp lid of a can when opening, but it's nice to know that things have been so well thought-out by the author.
The objection I found to any of this is the time-consuming nature of many of the recipes. Wontons are great, but on a school night, there simply isn't time to fill and fold the little beauties if we are to eat before 10. And while we all consider our children above-average, who has the confidence to allow their youngster to stir risotto? And prepare gnocchi? You better have unlimited time, patience, and a substitute meal in the wings just in case. I would reorganize this book into weeknight and weekend recipes. Then, pick your pleasures and go to work, all of you. And commune as intended at the table.
Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter
If you want to submit a recipe, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org