Sunday, February 18, 2007

dinner: take time to make something

I'm lucky to work with people who also like to cook - come Friday, a common question around the office is (wait for it. . .) "what are you cooking this weekend?"

The first time I was asked my reply was "why do you ask?"

"Because you'll have time to make something good," was the answer.

Ignoring the koan hidden in this exchange, it seemed to make sense. So I've been taking time each weekend to actually make something for dinner.

For example, last night I made veal scallopini with sage, capers and pine nuts, braised rainbow chard with garlic and some spaetzle.

This evening I made Jacques Pepin's Gnocchi Parisienne and a green salad with fresh vinaigrette.

The efforts of each evening were pretty easy, took less than 2 hours end-to-end (mise to clearing the table) and were accompanied by cheap (but good) Australian Shiraz. Both cost dramatically less than eating out.

Both gave us (my wife and I) a chance to talk while I cooked, both gave us a chance to linger over dinner and talk about "what worked and what I can try next time", and both were total zeros with the kids.

And both reminded me of the incredibly civilizing effect sitting at the dinner table has on a family, and by extension, on our society.

I was lucky enough to have a father who, despite pressures to the contrary, made a point of coming home for dinner each and every evening. And while I didn't think I was all that lucky at the time, I now know how lucky I was that he (and my mother) insisted that my four brothers and I sit down and eat dinner together.

Remarkably, my wife enjoyed the same good fortune growing up - so it is no surprise that we hold "the dinner hour" as something sacred chez nous.

Jim Foxworthy and I talked about this at dinner a month ago. He spoke in great detail, and with great urgency, about the importance of this "moment" for a family. In the face of many distractions and competing priorities, making time to sit together and eat - hopefully over a half-way decent dinner - is truly important.

So let me know what you made this weekend. And if you had the great and good fortune to share it with someone.

Now if only I can get those gnocchi to rise next time. . .

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