Dinner: A Love Story, The Book!

But before we get to that news, a little wind-up.

About five or six years ago, when Andy and I were still in the toddler trenches — hovering, floor-timing, being awake a full four hours before “starting” our workdays in the office — I asked my coworker Tom, a father of two middle-school aged kids, if I was going to be this tired for the rest of my life. No, he told me. It all turns around at about age 6, when they can make their own breakfast. When you don’t have to wake up with them to pour the juice and toast their bagels. When they can scroll through the DVR offerings and select Sponge Bob for themselves. This was an unimaginable concept to me and one I wasn’t entirely sure was in the cards for us. I had the same thought that I had a few years earlier, when Phoebe hadn’t hit her “pincer grasp” milestone: Am I going to be the one parent in the history of child-rearing that doesn’t figure all this stuff out? (It’s a fine line between exhaustion and paranoia.)

Not long after this conversation I hit a more memorable milestone than the one Tom described. It was one of my Fridays off and I was playing with the girls (who were just about 3 and 4) in Abby’s room. The two of them had locked into a pretend game with their new pirate ship and I had a radical thought: What if I left the room, went downstairs, and started making dinner? That is, what if I trusted the girls — trusted my instinct — and let them play without their helicopter mom around? I turned on Abby’s baby monitor, then went down a floor, two rooms over to start making some meatballs. In my rosey, airbrushed memory (not to be confused with reality) I believe Lucinda Williams was pouring her heart out on the iPod while I did so.

About one hour and one glass of wine later, I went to the bottom of the stairs, cleared my throat and sing-songed, just like my own mother circa 1981, “Giiirrrrls! Dinner’s ready!” I didn’t have a dinner bell, but I might as well have.

This night did not happen again for a while, but it was enough to offer me the promise that normalcy (perhaps even proper sit-down family dinners!) might one day return to our inmate-run asylum.

Why am I telling you this story? Because amidst all the tidy little taco soup and peanut butter noodle recipes you see on this website, I feel it’s my responsibility to remind you periodically that family dinner is not easy. Most of the time, it’s messy. It’s impossible to occupy the pre-schooler while you attempt to make your marinara. It can be too exhausting to even think about what to cook let alone cook it. It takes many milestones, psychological, physiological, gastronomical, to get to a place where it feels like you have figured it out.

All of these milestones will be chronicled in my next book, Dinner: A Love Story, which is to be published in Spring 2012 by Ecco/HarperCollins and edited by the amazing (and amazingly exuberant) Lee Boudreaux. The book, which uses my Dinner Diary as a road map, will be a personal exploration of family dinner, beginning before our kids were born — when Andy and I were teaching ourselves how to cook and when words like Wusthof and coriander started popping up in our conversations in disturbing numbers. It will continue through all the typical milestones (baby number one, baby number two, many jobs, a dog, a blog) as well as many more atypical ones. (Put it this way, Andy and I are already drafting up new letters and contracts.)

There will be new recipes, new strategies, new stories and of course, more pep talks to remind you that you’re all on the right track. Even though it seems like this track seems to be continually looping and reversing, and even if your kids are 8 and 9 and still not making breakfast for themselves.

Stay tuned, and, as always, if you have thoughts about what you want to see in this book or blog, please let me know.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What is 15 + 14 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)



Yeah! I’m thrilled to hear that there’s a book coming. I love this site and the book sounds great. Plus in the spring of 3012 I’ have a six year old, (and a four year old) and maybe I’ll be able to have a little more wiggle room for cooking with a glass of wine. So, two things to look forward to.


I can’t wait until Spring of 2012 (kids will be 4.75 and 3.25)!!! But your blog has repeatedly dragged my husband and I back to reality those times when we make a dinner we *think* the kids might eat but have to go back to the drawing board/oven/refrigerator to rustle up yet another quesadilla, string cheese, yogurt or applesauce… Thank you!


Thank you. Thank you for reminding me that it’s not easy. Thank you for letting me know I’m close, but not quite there…. With a 3 and 5 year old fighting over the latest bakugan getting dinner on the table, and a dinner that everyone will consume, still eludes me on a regular basis. But I promise to keep trying. In fact, I’m making the taco pie tonight (and maybe just quesadillas for the kids?).

Oh, and I can’t wait for the book. Good luck!


I am a new reader of DALS (and a new mother !) and just want you to know–you are the best and this site is the best. So grateful to have found it/you!


That is such happy news! Can’t wait for the new book. If you could, please include a detailed explanation of why my kids, ages 6 and almost 9, now seem to eat even fewer things than they did a year ago. That would be helpful. And perhaps you could also talk about why they will eat almost any kind of cheese imaginable, things many adults wouldn’t try. (Cheese Guy at the nice little grocery we visit on weekends: “What’s it going to be today, kids?” Almost 9 year old: “How about something Spanish. We liked the Manchego but we want to try something new.”) And yet they won’t eat mashed potatoes, a food without which I might not have survived childhood. Congratulations and best of luck!


OH I am just SO excited! Congratulations! I can’t wait to read it. Santa brought me a copy of Time for Dinner and I read it cover to cover while snowed in at my MIL’s. 🙂


Great news!
Just keep on doing what you’re doing, it’s what keeps all of us coming back 🙂


Well I already did the happy dance for you when I first heard the news, but I just a did a fist pump in support of the book. I cannot wait for this book!!!! Thanks for spreading inspiration around like fairy dust.


Jenny :

Congrats!!! Can’t wait for the new book. You are a great inspiration to all of us who are trying, and sometimes succeeding, in making dinner a priority! We have even interjected your “mad,sad and glad” game which has become a favorite conversation starter at our table.

Keep up the great work.


yay, can’t wait!!

in the meantime I will trust that family dinner gets easier. we have a 5, 3, and 6 month old. family dinner is usually not very pleasant. but still happens almost every night.


Ohhh, how I needed to read that today. So, it’s not just me? I am a single mom to an active toddler and can’t make an inspired meal to save my life right now. It will happen again. It will happen again! 🙂


je ne can wait pas! and in 2012, my daughter–who woke up this morning requesting a hot dog for breakfast–will be 3, the sweet spot age for family dinner. this post also reminds me i should stop following her around and looking on like i’m her publicist and just…leave the room(-ish).


Oh hooray! I so enjoy your stories of family dinners (no kids here yet) and really look forward to this book. Plus, many of the recipes you post here on the blog are perfect for my still-picky husband.


I’m so glad to hear this! It’s always so nice to know I’m not the only one fumbling through the kitchen and listening to Curious George in the background.


Hot dog! We will need to celebrate this in person. As for family dinners with preschoolers- or really having any semblance of a clue with preschoolers – that is to be discussed over much wine!!!


I can’t wait for your book. I love look forward to reading your blog everyday. I think you put family dinner in a wonderful perspective, plus I just love food.



Sounds like a great book–I’m a fairly new follower of your blog but a big fan. Here’s an idea for a chapter–how about meals for those days when you are picking everyone up from various school activities and will walk in the door at 6pm with 5 hungry kids who want something to eat, now!

My oldest three are teens and pre-teens, and sometimes I am nostalgic about the days when we were actually at home more (although a reality check will remind me that having kids who can get up on their own and get breakfast on Saturday mornings almost trumps at-home time on weeknights!).

I love my crock pot for meals that are ready the minute we walk in the door, but I’m always open to more suggestions for variety!


I have read and re-read these comments a hundred times today. Thank you all for being so thoughtful, so supportive, so nice. I will keep you posted on my progress, but in the meantime, please know how helpful all these suggestions and congrats are. You guys are awesome.


ahhh thanks for the reminder – Im completely in the dreading dinner phase – and I love to cook! (mine are 2 and 4) looking forward to your book – congratulations!


I can’t think of anyone who deserves a book deal more than you, Jenny. This blog makes me laugh, smile, and remember that family dinner really is worth all the effort it takes some nights — and I’m sure the book will do the same. Congratulations!


I have followed your blog for a while and have even made a few of your recipes, but with a freakishly bright but still 13-month old who demands to stand wobbily on a chair and “hep hep hep” while I cook, I was beginning to think even your loving and down-to-earth advice was beyond me and she would eat chopped fruit and hummus with her hands while DH and I ate take-out at 8:30 and my attempt a dinner ended up in the back of the fridge (or the garbage) for the rest of our lives. Reading this post today gave me hope in a moment when I sorely needed it. I will gratefully keep reading your fantastic blog, and I look very much forward to the book!

Rachel L.

As I was reading this post, I was interrupted by the scream of my 5 yr old as her 2 yr old brother was “totally destroying” her art project.

It’s never easy, but it is absolutely worth it – even if sometimes the best I can hope for is an A for effort. Can’t wait to get the DALS book next spring!

Kristina P-M

Oh awesome Jenny! Soo thrilled for you and yours. I had forgotten how hard it was to cook at the toddler stage…now at 6 yo seems like eons ago. My personal challenge it how to organize it all…we have to travel to Danbury for the TJ’s once a month (!) and I have to be hyper organized. I seriously have a spreadsheet for our month worth of dinners or we would have hot dogs every night…there has to be an easier way! Ideas???

Jessie H

This is fantastic! I’m actually a college student, and frankly a lot of the difficulties of cooking with/for kids (I used to be a nanny) are the exact same as someone who is juggling a full load of neurobiology pre-med classes and a research job.
All of the stuff you post is ENORMOUSLY helpful and I can’t wait to see the book! Way to go!

Ceri@Sweet Potato Chronicles

Woohoo! Such great news! I love your site and think it will make a great book. Love your blend of usefulness and wit – so appreciated when I’m feeling frustrated with the endlessness of meals. Congratulations!

Angie @ Just Like The Number

Congratulations! It will certainly be a “must buy” for me. I thoroughly enjoy the blog and really appreciated the honesty of this post. Thanks for showing the reality of trying to put a decent dinner on the table with little ones under foot.

I’d love to read suggestions in the book for getting the kids involved with dinner at different ages and stages. I feel like I enjoy dinner prep so much more when they’re out of my hair, but at the same time I feel like I’m doing them a disservice by not including them in at least some of the prep, some of the time.


A DALS book–what fantastic news!

I can’t tell you how helpful it is to hear moms reminisce about the early toddler years. As a mom to a 1-year-old and 2.5-year-old, sometimes it never occurs to me that life will one day get easier. Not necessarily less complicated, but easier.

Also, I hope to run in to you someday. I’m in Hastings. : >


My adult son just gave me your cookbook, which I love even though I don’t have little ones at home. Now I can’t wait for the DALS book. Thank you, thank you!

PS- I read your newsletter (almost) daily, really! Do I win the wine?


Congrats on a step of Mommy freedom. It does get easier as they are older. And one day your oldest will babysit for you. Mine does, it’s such a treat. She is so responsible too. She cooks, cleans up, and gets the little ones bathed. She started doing this at age 12.
Cool blog you have.


I read your blog pretty regularly, but somehow I missed this. Maybe it had to do with my three kids ages 4, 2.5, and 11 months! And I am writing to say thank you. I have read yours and other cooking blogs wishing I could take the time to make anything and I now feel that there is an end in sight, even if it is still years away! Can’t wait to read the book – congratulations!


I read your newsletter, do I win the Jane Marvel tote?

And even if I don’t win the tote, I still love your blog and the idea of hosting a guest blogger. We all have something to share for the greater good, right?


I borrowed this book from the library and returned it without making note of the qt size le creuset dutch oven that Jenny recommends as an essential. Does anyone know the answer?