mission: family dinner
DALS is a website devoted (mostly) to helping parents figure out how to get family dinner on the table. You can assume I know how busy you are and how many other things are ahead of “thaw chicken for dinner” on today’s to-do list. I will never fault you for firing up a frozen pizza when you can’t bear to turn on the stove. I will never judge you for not coughing up the extra bucks for the organic broccoli. And I will never promise you that family dinner is something that can be figured out in five easy steps!
All I hope for with DALS, really, is to provide recipes and strategies that inspire you to keep fighting the fight. I know how many reasons there are to fly the flag of surrender. Believe me, I know! Your kids refuse to eat anything, your fridge is full but your brain is blank, you don’t know how to cook, you have no desire to cook, you have a big project due tomorrow, you have no help with the cooking or the planning, you can’t even get everyone seated at the table at the same time, let alone eating the same meal. These are all legit, of course, but if you’re here reading this, it probably means that somewhere in the back of your mind you feel a little bad about your dinner situation. I’m not saying you should feel bad about it. (On DALS, you will never read those studies saying that kids who don’t eat family dinner will, you know, be gobbling handfuls of ecstasy by sixth grade.) What I’m saying is that there are things you can do — really easy things — that will make you feel a lot less bad about yourself when it comes to feeding your kids. You have my word: I will not be asking you to cook from scratch every single night — or even every other night. The only thing I will ask you to do is to stay in the game. Family dinner is a mindset, and once you get comfortable with the idea of not doing it, the harder it becomes to make it happen. But the more you force yourself to make meals for your children, the more it will become second-nature, and the more addicted you’ll get to all the pleasures and dividends a family meal can yield.
but there’s more than dinner on dinner: a love story
If we’re excited about something beyond food, you’ll probably be reading about it here, too. Just like how capital-F Food these days is so much more than sustenance (see: Michael Pollan), capital-D dinner is so much more than a protein-veg-starch pile on a pretty plate (though pretty plates can be very important!). It’s an emotional anchor to our day, the built-in guarantee that we’ll put down our phones and our Polly Pockets Shimmer and Splash Adventure dolls and spend a half hour or so hashing out whatever it is that’s on the collective family mind. In other words, if a topic is right for the dinner table, it’s right for Dinner A Love Story.
Who am I?
I’m Jenny, the founding editor of DALS, author of the New York Times Bestselling Dinner: The Playbook (Ballantine); Dinner: A Love Story (Ecco/HarperCollins); and How to Celebrate Everything. I have never worked in a restaurant or gone to culinary school. Until I was 18, I thought Betty Crocker cakes qualified as “from scratch,” and that garlic was best purchased with a McCormick label on it. I have, however, spent much of my professional life attempting to redeem myself, editing food and features for various websites and magazines including (most recently) Cup of Jo, Bon Appetit, Martha Stewart Living, Cookie (R.I.P), and Real Simple. It was at Real Simple where my first daughter was born in 2002 (my next came along 20 months later) and where I made a deal with myself: I would only continue to work full time if I was able to put a meal on the table for my family more often than not. I did it — at the expense of many other things, namely, all those novels by Jonathans who lived in Brooklyn — but I did it, and through posts and features here at Dinner: A Love Story, I hope to show you how.
Do I work? Do I have a kitchen staff? Who is this Andy guy?
I was a commuting full-time working mother for eight years until October 2009 — now I write books, and work part-time editing and writing for magazines and websites. For those eight years I split the family dinner duties pretty much down the middle with my husband, Andy (you’ll be hearing from him often here, too), though these days, since he still has a job (as a book editor) that requires him to shower and leave the house every day, he is mostly doing his share of the cooking on the weekends and on those nights during the week when I’d rather chew off my own arm than deal with dinner. From 2011-2017, we wrote a column for Bon Appetit called “The Providers” about all this family feeding business. Doesn’t that name actually make us sound cool? Like some new wave Irish band from the 90s?
My Dinner Diary
I’ve also kept a diary of every single thing I’ve eaten for dinner every single night since February 22, 1998. I know, I know. What can I say? When you’re in love, you do some weird-ass, obsessive things. You’ll be seeing little excerpts of the diary every now and then in my posts, but if you want the full, strange story, it’s right here in the New York Times.
first visit? welcome! here’s how to use dinner: a love story
A good place to begin is by clicking “First Time Here” on the top my home page. I do my best to post something on this website (or facebook or instagram) at least a few times a week, so check in whenever you think to yourself What should I make for the family tonight? Hopefully you’ll always find the answer. If you don’t, get in touch and let’s figure it out together.