I was at a party last week where a friend introduced me to someone as “Jenny. You know…She’s the one who writes about how we need to eat dinner with our families every night.” This is the point when I sort of look at the ground and try to kick an imaginary stubborn rock out of the dirt. “Uh, nice to meet you,” I cough up to my poor new aquaintance, who, for all I know, has a job with completely inflexible hours and a spouse who works the night shift and who, for all the family dinner desire in the world, would not be able to make a nightly meal happen with any kind of regularity.
I know this person introducing me doesn’t deconstruct these things the way I do, and I know this person is proud of what I do and in a million years wouldn’t mean to make anyone feel bad about their dinner situation, but here’s the thing: I have never once said on my blog or in my book that you need to eat dinner with your family every night. And, as long as I’m on the topic, I have never once “emphasized my strong belief that the family that eats together stays together,” as one book reviewer recently wrote in round-up of the year’s cookbooks. Who am I to say you need do anything with your family?
It’s so hard not to sound like a sanctimonious finger-wagger when you write about anything under the parenting umbrella, but I would like to just take a minute today to emphasize my strong belief that family dinner has been a huge and meaningful ritual in my life — and that I, personally, need to eat dinner with my kids as often as possible because we depend on it for our home’s sanity and well-being – but I never mean to infer that this is the one-size-fits-all solution to ensuring connectedness and togetherness in a family. Or, that, conversely if you don’t eat with your kids every night you might as well kiss your kids’ emotional health, their college degrees and their futures goodbye. (In my opinion, there are already enough studies out there shaming us at every turn.) A friend was just telling me how she, her husband and two teenage sons barely see each other during the week, but always converge and recharge on the weekend. “The weekend is family time and it’s non-negotiable,” she said. Another friend, Sara, a mother of three, who grew up in a family that skied every weekend, and who still today is a major badass on the slopes, told me that those winter trips were when the bonding happened. In her words: “We always got it done on the chairlift.”
We get it done at the dinner table — and for those of you out there who agree with me and feel as though this is the logical place to get it done, or might be the most logical place for you to get it done or even every now and then might be the place to get it done….well, then, by all means, stop by for some inspiration. But if you’re just in it for a tasty grilled hoisin burger recipe that I’m hoping your family will love next time you all sit down together? I’m not going to stop you or tell you need to do anything more. That part is up to you.
“Daddy, did you just say we’re having poison burgers tonight?
“Hoisin burgers, Abby. Hoisin burgers.”
1 lb ground turkey or chicken
juice from 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon chinese 5-spice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped finely
salt and pepper
Mix the above ingredients, shape into patties, and grill over hot coals, flipping frequently for a total of 10-12 minutes, until firm but not rock hard. Serve on buns with extra hoisin sauce. Hoisin is available in better supermarkets and Asian specialty stores.
Also: If you replace the ground turkey/chicken with ground pork (in Abby’s words): “It’s not like it’s going to be bad.”