Recently, I came across a special book written by a husband and wife about the value of preparing and eating family meals together. The wife, Dr. Caroline Clauss-Ehlers, PhD, is a psychologist, and the husband, Julian Clauss-Ehlers, is a classically trained, New York Times-starred chef. Entitled Eating Together, Being Together: Recipes, Activities, and Advice from a Chef Dad and a Psychologist Mom, the book makes the argument that family meals offer a wealth of benefits, and not just from a nutritional standpoint.
This couple observes that “magical things happen for people around food: Kids open up while they measure flour and mix batter; adults tell stories of their childhood while they eat a favorite family recipe; bad feelings are mitigated; memories are made.”
Before the pandemic, this couple and their three children were like so many other families: busy, with each family member on their own schedules. Mom ate dinner with the youngest son at 5 p.m., and he was in bed by seven o’clock; his sisters would join their mom at 7:30 for their meal, while dad came home at 10 p.m. and ate alone.
But when they experienced quarantine during the pandemic, they started eating together as a family every night. Suddenly (and for the first time) they were eating together all the time. They write, “this experience left us with a greater awareness of the value and benefits of family mealtime.”
Additionally, this book contains an abundance of information about how to have honest food discussions with family members. Julian, the father, was classically trained in France, where the food culture encourages eating mindfully and savoring the flavors of each dish, a philosophy he tries to pass down to his children.
They write, “Share with your child the reason why he can’t just eat chicken nuggets his entire life. And guess what? In doing this, you and your child are having a conversation. You’re thinking through decisions, considering outcomes, and perhaps most important, listening to one another.”
Unlike some books that encourage stealth vegetables, a.k.a. hiding zucchini or carrots in the chocolate cake and banana bread, this book takes a more honest, holistic, transparent approach. They write, “To make these good choices, kids need to be aware of what they’re eating instead of being fooled into consuming a healthy option without knowing it. Developing self-awareness about food choices and involving children in food preparation early on equip kids to be thoughtful eaters who make healthy choices.”
These activities also offer great opportunities to bond together and have meaningful dialog. Who of us hasn’t experienced asking our child how their day went, and receiving either radio silence or a few mumbled, monosyllabic responses? However, during shopping, meal prep, and family meals, everyone gets to talk about their day and share thoughts and feelings in a relaxed atmosphere.
The book presents a lovely blend of parenting tips and insights from the mom and recipes and cooking tips from the dad. It’s also chock-full of activity opportunities, broken down by age groups. It’s a unique and well-rounded (and very encouraging) guide for parents looking to establish healthy eating habits and strong family bonds through mealtime. Highly recommended!
Cardboard Box Adventures picture books are great for shared reading and can help parents establish a strong preliteracy foundation for their children. Check out the CBA Catalog for a full list of award-winning picture books, chapter books, and resources for parents and educators. Visit my Amazon author page for more information.