Object: Guess the many reasons why Liza hates this commercial so very, very much.
Prize: An autographed picture of me holding a half watermelon in front of my mouth as I prance around a dinner party at a house I would never be invited to...while onlookers give each other piggyback rides and marvel at how hilarious we all are.
One of the reasons I enjoy Dinner: A Love Story so much is that Rosenstrach masterfully keeps one foot in a very cosmopolitan magazine/food culture/intellectual world and yet also dangles the other in the suburban daily grind where most of us actually live. She never suggests that missing family dinners every now and then will lead to crackhead kids. She admits weaknesses, whether it is mediocre grilling skills or moments of kitchen trickery. She would not laugh if her two daughters ran cupcakes across her shirt.
A couple of passages to demonstrate the "realness" I appreciate...
"Disclaimer: You may catch me referring to certain family dinner scenarios, such as having two working parents and two kids under two, as not merely problematic but also 'soul crushing' and 'harrowing.'"
"We made the mistake of sending out invitations to our Eighth Annual Holiday Party (in 2004) with 'Kids Are Welcome!' across the bottom of the card. It was our second holiday party in our new house, but the year before, we kept the guest list manageable and Abby was only two months old so it was easy to pass her around like a football to anyone who would take her. The next year, though, we thought it would be 'fun' to invite families. ... There was, of course, one small problem with this theory: Abby had just celebrated her first birthday and her idea of hanging out with friends was to hang around my neck and cry if I tried to have a conversation with my friends. Not that this was even a possibility considering that my friends who had brought their kids looked just as relaxed and festive as I felt.
That was the first time I learned the rule that when entertaining, one kid under five counts for five times as many adults in terms of volume and energy - and I couldn't hack it. It was our Eighth and Final Holiday Party."
$.02: I hope all you parents out there (who I'm confident are wonderful parents) don't waste time guilting yourself for occasionally leaving the kids out.
One of my favorite ideas and pictures in the book is found a mere 21 pages in and captures a glimpse of a cabinet door in Rosenstrach's own kitchen. She used the space to hand-write some of the recipes that hold special significance to her family, recipes that they frequently cook, recipes that remind her of funny moments in their lives.
Because I'm renting my house, I opted for an improvised version of this strategy. I went through my favorite recipe box and pulled those cards that do the very same things for me: recipes that make me smile because they remind me of particular people, events, or moments in my life and/or recipes that show up on my menus on a fairly regular basis. I also decided to put one new one up there each week as an encouraging push to try something "out of the box." Yes, that was a horrible pun.
4 tbsp. red or white wine vinegar
Squeeze of honey
Squeeze of fresh lemon
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh herbs (I used golden oregano, rosemary, and basil)
1/2 c. good-quality olive oil
Whisk together and refrigerate.
Butternut Squash Pie (via Southern Food/About.com)
Cut the squash in half lengthwise; remove stem and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash, cut side down, on a foil-lined oiled baking pan; add about 1/2 cup of water to the pan. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 400° for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the squash is tender and can be easily pierced with a fork. Let cool completely then peel and mash or puree the squash or put it through a food mill. Measure 1 1/2 cups of the squash and set aside.