How often does your family get together for a meal — one that doesn’t include technology or a drive thru window? This is Janice, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom, here with a conversation I had with Celebrity Chef David Rocco about Barilla® Canada’s Share the Table™, an initiative dedicated to helping make mealtime meaningful again.
I’m Not the Only One…
I admit it. Family dinners around the table are getting more sporadic around here.
As my kids get older and their schedules get busier, I seem to becoming a taxi driving, short order cook, whipping up different meals for different kids in between shuttling them to and from their individual activities and play dates.
I seem to always be “preparing food,” yet family dinner time seems to be disappearing.
According to a new study hosted on the Angus Reid Forum for Barilla Canada, “Although nearly all (96 per cent) Canadian parents surveyed feel sharing meals is key to connecting with their children, less than half (46 per cent) have family meals every day.”
The survey showed that one third of Canadian parents feel guilty about not sharing more family meals.
Work, technology, busy schedules — it all can be getting in the way of family meal times.
And missing out on family meals appears to have a serious impact on our lives. The survey revealed, “Canadians who eat dinner together more frequently are more likely to be satisfied with every aspect of their lives.”
Pasta to the Rescue
How many meals has pasta rescued in your house?
With my picky-eater 7 year old daughter and my always-hungry 13 year old son, serving up a quick pasta meal has saved me more times than I can count.
So, I think it is fitting that Barilla, a leader in the global pasta business, is coming to the rescue of family dinners in Canada with Share the Table™ – a program designed to help to reinvigorate family dinners across the country.
Barilla Canada has partnered with David Rocco, host of Food Network’s Dolce Vita and author of three best-selling cookbooks, including David Rocco’s Dolce Vita and Made In Italy to spread the #ShareTheTable message.
A Conversation with David Rocco
Recently, I had a chance to chat with David about family dinner time, feeding kids, and how to make meal times work better for everyone at the table…
Janice: As a business owner and single mom, juggling my work and my kids’ sports and extracurricular activities, regular family dinner times have become a real challenge for us.
You recently partnered with Barilla Canada to launch the “Share the Table,” but I also know you’re really busy yourself. You wear quite a few hats as an entrepreneur and I’ve read in interviews, I was doing a little research on you, and you’ve said that you work 18 hours a day, often arriving at the office at 6:00am. So you understand busy.
How do you make time in your schedule to sit down for regular meals with your family?
David: You have to make it a priority. That, to me, is one of the pillars of the family unit.
[Tweet “Make meal time a priority. It’s a pillar of the family unit. @DavidRoccosVita #ShareTheTable”]
If it’s one of those times where if I have to go to the office or work late, I make sure I come back to eat with the family and then I go back.
I think it’s the consciousness of just, “That’s what I’m going to do this time.” It’s as important as a parent/teacher interview, that you’ll make sure you write on your calendar.
Meal time should be that moment, that time of the day that, even if you have to work late, you can always go back to the office or at least that’s what I do. You just put that as a priority.
For me, as busy as I am, I try and give that window to the family. That’s, to me, where food is really important, because it allows me to connect with my kids, play with them and also cook the family meals. It’s multi-purpose and it gives me a few things to do during that time.
Janice: My daughter is a very picky eater. Extremely picky. Feeding her has become one of the most stressful things in my day.
Do you have any tips for dealing with picky eaters or kids that prefer different things? How do you keep everybody satisfied at dinner time, making meals that are interesting to adults, but satisfy kids’ varying palette?
David: First of all, my kitchen’s a dictatorship, so I don’t necessarily worry about making everyone happy.
Janice: That’s where I fall apart, right there.
David: I know, my wife falls apart, too, so don’t be too hard. No, it’s a challenge.
Just because I’m a cook, a chef, whatever you want to call me on TV, my one daughter is picky, my other daughter is more adventurous. My son will eat basically my arm if you give it to him. He’ll eat everything.
At the end of the day, kids will go through phases. They’ll go to school and they’ll discriminate over texture or green peas, because they were at a friend’s place and their friends didn’t eat it, so they feel licensed to do the same thing.
As parents, I think you have to not give your kids too much choice at the dinner table, because they’ll drive mom crazy. Kids, it’s probably the only thing that they have 100 percent power over anyone and everything. What they put in their mouths and what they keep in their mouth is 100 percent up to them. They will spit it out and they learn that at the age of 6 months. They understand that, really, that’s the only power they have over their parents and they’ll be happy to exercise it.
I don’t profess to be a psychologist, that’s for sure, but I came from the son of Italian immigrants and this is what we ate. At meal time, it was like this and if you don’t like it, no problem, you don’t have to eat it, but mom’s not going to make you something else and make my brother something else, my sister something else, just to make her guilt go away. It’s like, “This is what we eat as a family and if you don’t like it, that’s fine, don’t eat it. Tomorrow, you’ll have it for lunch.”
It’s a real hard discipline because, I tell you, my wife, I just see her. When I act like that, her lower lip starts quivering.
… But I’m a believer that there are some foods that are adventurous, but for the most part, I think what you’re saying, probably more or less what every parent goes through, is the dilemma of trying to appease everyone.
I think that’s going to be impossible, but at a younger age, “This is what we’re having tonight.” The concession will be, “I will make this for you, little Tommy. Then, the next day, I’ll make this for little Brenda,” and everyone will get their favorite meal that week, but we all eat the same thing. There’s no concessions on that and there’s no negotiating.
[Tweet “TIP: Let each of your kids pick a favorite meal one night a week. @DavidRoccosVita #ShareTheTable”]
Janice: Yes, I think that’s always a great tip — each child gets to choose a meal that they’re having during the week. It’s like, “You get Tuesdays. That was your choice for Tuesday and this is the choice for Wednesday.” I’ve got to do that a little bit more in my family, for sure.
One thing that I’ve found helpful is getting the kids involved in the kitchen. I find that if they had something to do with preparing it, they’re more likely to eat it. What age were your kids when you started getting them involved in the kitchen? What tips do you have for getting kids in there and actually helping cook and prepare the meals? I know that’s a lot of the together time, isn’t it?
David: Yeah, for me, that’s always together time. Even if there’s a preparation that’s a little more advanced, they can still do something, even if it’s adding salt, even if it’s tasting it, even if it’s stirring it or even if it’s them doing their homework.
Even just sitting down at the table while I’m cooking, there’s dialog that goes on as opposed to everyone in a different room and everyone’s doing their own little thing. For me, it’s always using that as an excuse to get together.
And to answer your other question, “Since when have you been doing this?” I have twin daughters. There is always this need or this desire to come home and just hold them. They were preemies, so the skin on skin was important and all that stuff.
I can’t tell you how many meals I made, literally, with my daughters sleeping on my shoulder as I was cooking risotto, cooking with one hand. Not because I was so good at it, it was just because that was just me.
Then, gradually, that went into them pulling up a chair near me. They really, literally, have been part of the kitchen and that exercise of cooking since they were young. To a point where, sometimes, in the early days, when they were two and-a-half, three, they used to lean over the counter top on a chair. My wife would always be a little nervous.
They learned at a really young age. I always was careful never to put them at risk, but they were always close by watching and adding salt and just being involved and adding to that kind of meal, always. They always had this emotional connection to ingredients.
Janice: That’s wonderful. It’s a good inspiration to remember to be disciplined about these things because they need it, whether or not they recognize it. We all need that time together.
I have one more burning question for you – as host of the popular and delicious Food Network Canada’s Donut Showdown, you understand the value of a delicious food treat. How do you manage sweets like donuts with your own kids?
David: I let my kids have whatever they want. Even though it sounds contradictory to what I just said, for the most part, I let them eat whatever… It’s balance. Yes, they get to eat donuts.
In fact, I think when they started realizing what I did was about a year and-a-half ago, two years ago, when I did my first season of Donut Showdown. I’d walk through the door every night at around 8:30, almost 9:00 that night and my wife would just keep them up just so I can see them…
I’d walk through with a baker’s dozen of these donuts that were just featured on the show. My kids would go, “Daddy, where were you?” I said, “Work.”
My one daughter would say to the other daughter, “Oh, he eats donuts. That’s his job. You have the coolest job.” I was like a rock star.
I give them treats as a treat. I’ve heard different theories, “You shouldn’t be bribing your kids. If they eat this, they get that.” The reality is, I do. I’m not going to give them a donut before they eat their meal, but if they eat something, then they get a treat, i.e., a dessert of something.
That means they respect it as well and it’s balanced and all the rest of it. There’s nothing that they can’t eat, there’s just a priority sequence of when they can eat it.
[Tweet “I let my kids eat whatever. There’s just a priority sequence of when they can eat it.~David Rocco”]
Janice: Perfect, wonderful, David. It sounds like you guys have such a fabulous home life. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us.
Your Family Can Enter to Win a Trip to ITALY
Want to go to Italy? You might get your chance…
Yes, Barilla is giving away three trips to Italy.
To enter, Canadian families can submit photos, videos or blog posts to www.sharethetable.ca, revealing how they are making dinner a more significant, fun and meaningful occasion. All submissions will be entered to win a trip for four to Italy from May 11 to July 31, 2015.
Each Contest Entry helps Food Banks Canada
For every submitted contest entry, Barilla will donate a meal to Food Banks Canada throughout the Share the Table promotion period, up to 60,000 meals.
Now, that makes entering even more exciting.
For more information on tips, recipes and advice on how to Share the Table, visit www.sharethetable.ca.
Disclosure:This post is part of a campaign with Barilla Canada. Our opinions are always 100% our own. Images provided by Barilla.
Written by Janice Croze, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom
Talk with me: @5minutesformom and Facebook.com/5minutesformom
Pin with me at pinterest.com/5minutesformom