All of us have food memories from our childhoods. What do you think YOUR kids will remember?
In her inspiring new book How to Celebrate Everything: Recipes and Rituals for Birthdays, Family Dinners, and Every Day In Between, author Jenny Rosenstrach encourages families to find moments (big and small) throughout the year to mark with rituals—and to appreciate the traditions you already have. And of course, so many family rituals involve food, so she includes more than 100 recipes to mark those occasions.
After all, these are moments your kids will remember. Not just the annual Thanksgiving dinners but all the little customs that make your family unique, like the banana pancakes you always whip up for sleepover mornings, the homemade pizza you assemble together every Friday, or the stove-top popcorn you all munch on for movie night. These have meaning—and should be cherished. "Rituals bring kids comfort, connection, and happiness," says Rosenstrach. "Our days are so busy, it's easy for all of us to just approach every day like it's a race to the finish line. Rituals force people to stop, to slow down, to live more intentionally. And I believe ultimately they infuse meaning into days that would otherwise fade behind us like a jet trail."
Don't think your family has any rituals? Rosenstrach is sure that you do. "I think a lot of families already have rituals in place, they just don't think to call them rituals," she says. "Hopefully my book will help them shine a spotlight on these moments and savor them." But in case you need some inspiration, here are five ideas she shares in her book:
Keeping Sunday dinner sacred: The notion of "Sunday dinner" may seem like a thing of the past. But it's actually the perfect starting point to making family dinner happen more often, she says. With work schedules and kids' activities, it may be one of the only nights everyone is home with nowhere to dash off to. There's also more time to prepare the meal itself—and more hands to help!
Breaking food rules on vacation: Do you spend a lot of energy saying "no" all year when it comes to food? Rosenstrach says summer vacation food shopping is her time to say "yes"—to things like soda and sugary cereal and (gasp!) even a box of Pop-Tarts. After all, it's nice to break out of routines on vacation, and that goes for food too.
Going to the farmer's market: Though she admits it's probably the homemade donuts that get her kids to the farmer's market with her on Saturdays, Rosenstrach says she's a believer in "anything that creates an aura of excitement around good food for kids". And not only will you nab local, in-season food to cook up into family favorites like berry pies and veggie-topped pizzas, but you'll also get everyone out into the fresh air.
Cooking "Big Deal" birthday breakfasts: Want to make the honoree feel extra-special? Start the celebration first thing in the morning and treat your kids to a plate of waffles studded with chocolate chips, a stack of pancakes covered in birthday candles, or a decadent homemade breakfast sandwich with sausage, egg, and cheese.
Eating in front of the TV: Yes, this goes against pretty much everything you've heard about quality family dinners. But think about those big televised events that bring everyone together—like the Olympics, the World Series, or the finale of a favorite show. When most dinners take place around a table, it's okay to break the rules and gather in front of the tube sometimes. Rosenstrach recommends one-bowl recipes that only require a fork or a spoon, like thick soups or stir-fries. In her book, she shares her recipe for Big World Event Dinner Nachos, made with stewed chicken and tons of toppings.
What are YOUR favorite family rituals?
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She is the author of The Snacktivist's Handbook: How to Change the Junk Food Snack Culture at School, in Sports, and at Camp—and Raise Healthier Snackers at Home. She also collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.