This week’s recipe comes from our friends Corky, Lori, Dana and Tracy Pollan, authors of the new cookbook, The Pollan Family Table. We chatted with the family about why they wrote the book and what’s so important about family meals.
The Kids Cook Monday: We love the idea of a family writing a cookbook together. What inspired your family to write a cookbook dedicated to family meals?
The Pollans: We were inspired to write The Pollan Family Table because of our own experiences growing up having family meals. Every night at 6:00 pm sharp was dinner. That’s when we all came together to enjoy delicious food, connect, and share stories about our day.
Today, there is myriad research on the benefits of cooking at home and having family meals. Children do better in school, are more emotionally stable and develop healthier lifelong eating habits. We knew we wanted to recreate these childhood dinners for our own families, but today there are so many challenges and obstacles getting in the way. Busy schedules, two parents working, the availability of convenience food, the list goes on. When our kids were young we would constantly call each other for dinner ideas. Over the years we collected recipes that we had made for our own families as well as meals we had growing up. We decided why not put them together in a book, which could help other families, get delicious, healthy meals on the table for their loved ones. These recipes are easy to follow, and most take under an hour, many half an hour, to prepare.
KCM: Throughout the book, you talk about involving your kids in the cooking process. What would you say are the biggest benefits of cooking together as a family?
The Pollans: Some of our fondest memories of holiday dinners are when all of us–kids included –pitch in to cook the meal. The kid’s peal the vegetables, slice the potatoes, whip the cream, and stir the pots, and in the process pick up cooking skills they’ll have for their lifetime. We firmly believe that teaching our kids to cook is one of the most important lessons we can give them. It is often neglected in today’s world, yet knowing their way in the kitchen is essential to their safety, security, health, and independence. And, we’ve discovered that when kids are involved in preparing their own meals, they’re much more likely to try new foods and make healthier food choices. So, we grab any opportunity we can to cook with our kids, we cherish the time away from screens and distractions and the opportunity that it offers to reconnect and strengthen lines of communication.
KCM: In the forward, your brother Michael points out that all of the recipes in the book are equally appealing to both kids and adults. Why is it important for the whole family to eat the same food, instead of “kid food” (chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese) for kids and “real food” for adults?
The Pollans: Anyone familiar with The Pollan Family Table knows that we’re strong advocates of families eating together, but we’re equally dedicated to a belief in the common pot– that when we sit down together we all eat the same food. In the last decade families have become divided at dinnertime, the kids munching away on their chicken nuggets, the adults eating a totally different meal. This split makes cooking for the family difficult and time consuming, yet a more crucial consequence is the failure of kid’s taste buds for “real” food to grow and develop. Sharing from the same dish adds a key layer to the experience of family dinners and we’re pleased that the recipes in our cookbook have proven to have joint appeal, as much to the kids as to the adults.
KCM: We love that there’s a Meatless Monday chapter in the book! Why do you think that it’s important for families to enjoy meatless meals from time to time?
The Pollans: It’s great for families to eat meatless meals regularly. First and foremost they are generally low in saturated fat, chock-full of vegetables, beans, and grains, and that is simply a healthy way to eat. We all want our families to be the healthiest they can be, so it’s important to feed them well and to teach them about healthy eating. Our children learn best through example so if we serve meatless meals and discuss why with the kids, they will get the message early on.
And, in the same way that meatless meals are good for us, going meatless is good for the environment. On a global level we can begin to teach our children about their part in the world. As we ourselves do our own part by cooking meatless, we impart a wonderful lesson that if we all take small steps in the right direction it does have a positive impact on the world.
Our kids all love meatless meals––pastas with vegetables, make your own tacos or pizzas, stir-fries, vegetarian soups––all delicious and as an added benefit, they are easy on the budget.
KCM: The cookbook features “Food for Thought” boxes just like our Family Dinner Date! Do you think it’s important for families to talk about nutrition while learning to cook together?
The Pollans: We loved doing research for that section of the book. We knew many of the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables but were surprised by some of the new facts we discovered. Our family feels it’s important to discuss nutrition while cooking; not only is it educational but we find it has a positive affect on our kid’s food choices. They’ll ask which vegetable would be healthier, kale or spinach, or why are onions so good for you? They’re naturally inclined to make the healthier choice. Now that we all understand the incredible health benefits of green herbs, the kids sprinkle parsley or basil over almost anything!