Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids by Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D.
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Description: The benefits for family dinners seem to be what everyone is talking about right now. Family therapist Anne Fishel breaks down the benefits and provides tips to make the act of getting everyone to the table possible and more stress-free.
Why I Picked This Book: To be honest I didn't fully read the blurb so I was under the impression that this was more of a weeknight meals cookbook with conversation tips.
My Thoughts: We're big believers in eating dinner together but it can be challenging. With 4 kids and 3 close together in age it seemed like for years someone had something every night and that was with us limiting the number of activities they could sign up for. There was a lot of juggling, a lot of planning (every Thursday was slow cooker meal night for YEARS), and some crazy late dinners but for the most part we ate dinner pretty much every night together. Even now with Eleanor at college and Emma barely here and a revolving door of their friends who show up to be fed we still eat dinner together most nights. At 6 (ish) whoever is here sits down to dinner. Sometimes it's just J, the Tornado and myself and sometimes we're trying to see how many extra chairs we can squeeze around the table. After reading this book I interrogated Emma (I'd interrogate Paul but teenage boys aren't the most observant and he'd just stare at me blankly) about how many of her friends eat with their families. It seems to be split. For some of her friends family dinner is pretty normal though it does seem that it is more frequent with families where 1 parent is at home. For others it never happens. For those that don't it was a mix of everyone on their own and 1 person would prepare something or pick something up and then everyone would go to their own rooms to eat at whatever time they felt like eating. Now most of Emma's friends are 17 or 18 so they're perfectly capable of using an oven. I don't know how things were handled when the kids were younger. She did say that all of her friends who came over who didn't eat with their families always commented on how we eat together and in a positive way.
Pro: Obviously I'm not a new convert to the eating dinner together thing so I went in agreeing with her overall point. I loved how she talked about statistics. Eating dinner together causes countless benefits but she discusses the sample sizes of the studies and that dinner doesn't exist in a vacuum. There are other things going on in the family other than that they shovel chicken into their mouth while sitting across from each other. I liked that she addressed this point and even talks about starting with dinner and essentially "fake it till you make it". She broke her ideas down by age group which was useful as eating dinner with an 11 year old offers different challenges from eating with a 4 year old. She even talked about eating together once the children have left which isn't something I'd actually thought about. Fishel covers a wide range of topics from how to get your family to eat and talk as well as situations she dealt with in her family therapy practice. I really appreciated that her attitude isn't "This is what we do and and if you don't you're wrong" but instead offered examples and stressed finding what works best for your family. There's plenty of tips for those that already eat together and lots of good ideas for those that are trying to work towards that.
Con: This is a pretty dense book. There's a lot of information and while she does a good job mixing in personal stories it still reads like a textbook in part. The handful of recipes that were included weren't something I can see my family eating. While dumplings - particularly as a group activity for making dinner - sound like a lot of fun I think my family would mutiny. Obviously, this is strictly personal as your family may be willing to eat interesting foods.
Overall: While definitely not a cookbook there is a lot of useful information in here about how to get your family sitting for a meal and enjoying each other's company. While there is a certain textbook feel it never felt like Fishel was preaching or saying "You must do it my way." This is definitely an interesting read for families of any age.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, definitely. I really liked how she made her points.
Would I Recommend this Book?: Yes. I think this would be a good resource for any family.
Challenges Met? Foodie Reads