Lisa King Takes A Stand For Family Dinner
In a recent piece for Slate Magazine, Amanda Marcotte asks if women should be freed from the tyranny of the home cooked family dinner.
Her argument was that cooking at home is expensive, time consuming and too exhausting for modern working women, while children and husbands often complain about food when it is provided for them.
Lisa King knows a thing or two about cooking family dinners. She raised 10 children on home cooked meals, and still feeds her entire extended family at least once a week. She also feeds family style meals to the film crew who work on the Great American Country reality series Farm Kings. This year, the Kings began hosting a successful Dinner in the Field series. At these events, Lisa cooks and serves dinner for 150. Lisa cooks regularly for the Freedom Farms Local Market and Sandwich Shop. She also runs a successful floral business growing her own flowers and designing floral arrangements for Freedom Farms and for weddings and special events. Here is Lisa’s perspective on the family dinner.
Why would you throw away time with your kids when one of the most important things in the world is eating? When you cook, you control what your kids eat. Those who control your food control you. If we as Americans depend on fast food restaurants to nourish us, what does that say about who is in charge of our lives?
Where are our children today? They can often be found on the phone in their rooms, or watching TV. My rule is no phones at the table. That goes for the cook, too. I have the same rule with the film crew. They had a hard time at first, but they followed the rule and now they spend every meal talking and relaxing instead of playing with their phones. They love it. Put your phone down; you’ll be surprised how much time that gives you. Don’t make cooking so difficult! These days, everybody is watching cooking on TV but they’re not doing it in their own homes. Cooking is an art, and it’s going to be a dying art if we don’t practice it in our daily lives and teach it to our children.
“I challenge people to spend one hour a day at dinnertime without their phones.”
People make dinner a difficult thing. Dinner should be easy. Dinner is food and family coming together. Don’t make it so complicated. Don’t expect meals to be so elaborate. People make far too much food these days, especially for toddlers. Make it simple! Make it fast, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I always try to spend half an hour or less cooking, and whenever possible I use one pot for the whole meal. I could give you 10 dozen recipes for one pot meals. In fact, that is exactly what I’m planning to do in my next cookbook.
Start with family dinner one day a week if you have to, although I think it should be at least five days a week. The dinner table is where communication happens, where families talk. I would give up on football and soccer for my kids before I’d give up on family dinner.
The idea that cooking at home is too expensive left me stunned. I don’t know where someone would get the idea that eating out is cheaper than cooking at home. You can go out for a hamburger, or you can buy a pound of ground meat for the same price. I rarely go to the grocery store, and when I do I don’t buy much. It is so much cheaper to cook at home. I fed my first 3 kids for a year with vegetables and meat from our farm, and only spent 600 dollars at the grocery store. Of course, not everyone has a farm, but most people can and should have a garden at home [link to blog about Kitchen Gardens]. Shop simply. Cooking with whole ingredients is not only cheaper, it’s healthier too.
People walk into my kitchen and laugh at how few utensils I have. I don’t have a garlic press. I don’t have a lot of things! I keep it simple.
“I try to cook the whole meal in one pan. The simpler the meal, the quicker and easier the cleanup.”
I really do understand the problem of trying to cook for a family that is not appreciative. This is how I suggest getting around that problem. Ask your family what they want for dinner. Assign them a day, and let them plan the menu. At our house, we always have Taco Tuesdays. You can serve grilled cheese on Monday and spaghetti and meatballs on Wednesday. Remember, the menu doesn’t have to be complicated. Let the whole family help plan the menu; use simple whole ingredients and get them involved in the process of preparing the meal. Kids need to learn the art of cooking. Make sure they wash their hands, and give them a simple task. They can wash tomatoes, tear the lettuce, or make a hamburger patty. Kids can clean up too! Teach your kids to set the table, clear it and wash the dishes.
“The dinner table is where communication happens, where families talk.”
Finally, if you want to call yourself a feminist, don’t make women sound weak. Don’t belittle me as a woman by telling me that I’m too weak to work during the day and come home and feed my family at night. This morning I woke up and picked flowers for four weddings. Then I went to the market and made a couple dozen tomato basil pies. I just got home and, guess what? I’m getting ready to prepare a meal for a dozen people. It will take 15 minutes to prepare the vegetables and 15 minutes to prepare the chicken. That’s it. I would stop doing weddings before I’d stop feeding my family. Dinner is where we talk about our day, where we laugh, where we cry every now and then. The dinner table is what holds us together. Don’t give up on family dinner. Don’t throw away the art of cooking and the art of family time and communication. It’s too important.