Our 2010 Favorites: A Quick Bite With Laurie David

Our 2010 Favorites: A Quick Bite With Laurie David

A quick chat with Laurie David is as hilarious as it is inspiring. We caught up with the producer, activist, writer (and a zillion more things!) while she was in Toronto promoting her incredible new book, The Family Dinner, which goes beyond methods and photos—it also folds in games, conversation starters, green values and ambiance tips—a celebration of gathering around the table and making time to reap the benefits of a cozy, homemade meal. Read on to see what food Laurie has been obsessed with all year.

Photo by: Maryellen Baker

What inspired you to write The Family Dinner?

I was sitting at my dinner table long after my dinner had ended and my two teenage daughters were still sitting there talking to me. That is an accomplishment; trust me. It’s getting harder and harder to connect with your kids and in the invasion of technology is doing a unbelievable amount of damage to family life and this time-honoured tradition. When I was growing up, dinner was a non-negotiable. It didn’t matter if you wanted to or not, you came to the table. We’re in danger of losing that. There’s all these problems that are coming up as a result of it. And it’s not a coincidence that all the health issues we’re facing like obesity and diabetes are on the rise just at the time that family dinner is on the decline. It’s only getting harder as people are getting more addicted to technology. Where is the time coming from? Something’s got to give—there’s only 24 hours a day. Here’s an opportunity to have a few basic rules and everyone’s going to benefit from it.

And you say in you’re book is about dinner being a ritual…


Dinner doesn’t have to be a three-course meal with a homemade apple cobbler in the oven. It can be soup and salad. It can be PB &J sandwiches one night. The point is that we have to sit down, stop all the things we’re doing and we have to talk to each other.

What is your throw-together meal?

One of the things that I discovered this year that I am obsessed with is quinoa. It takes 15 minutes to cook, so it’s quicker than rice and the same as pasta. But guess what? It’s a protein! We don’t’ have to eat meat three times a day to get our protein because we can get it from this amazing grain—this is genius. Here’s what you can do with this thing. You can toss it into soup as you would rice, you can sprinkle it on top of a salad, you can add it with some crunchy vegetables and some balsamic vinegar and—that’s how good it is. Your kids will love it and you know they’ll be eating something nutritious and this is not a big time commitment. Everyone’s got to eat so they might as well be doing it well.


How often do you experiment before perfect a recipe?

Every time I cook it’s like a new experience. I’m a little recipe challenged because I’m still learning how to read a recipe but I desperately need recipes to cook from. I get inspired from cookbooks all the time.One thing I’ve learned recently is that you have to read the recipe all the way through and then start cooking. I’m well known for forgetting an ingredient after the fact. So then, you know what? Rename your dish. I think it’s heredity. I dedicated the book to my grandma Minnie, who always famous in my family for always forgetting a side dish. Whether she left it in the oven or the oven, every meal she served us, this happened. It’s hereditary because I have a version of that and it’s that I forget an ingredient.


What was one of your favourite food memories as a child?

I had difficult family dinners as a child and I that’s one of the reasons why this became so important to me. Dinnertime was a very stressful time and it was always about who was going to leave the table crying first. But my positive experience was that my mother loved to entertain, and she passed that on to me.

What’s your favourite no-fail dish?

Always a soup. It’s hearty, delicious and you can make a ton of it and have it the next day, I’m a soup and salad gal. But I also love anything that’s cooked in one pot. Because if you’re having company, you want to make the meal, put it in the oven and pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the anticipation that guests coming over. “Grains, Greens and Cheese Please” is one of my favourites,  “Moroccan Chicken Tangine”, and “Asian Shrimp Cakes”(all recipes in the book). Those Asian shrimp cakes are phenomenal, they’re great leftover and it taught my kids how to love fish, it was their first taste of something that was fishy. You don’t even have to tell them there’s fish in there—just say they’re Asian cakes and they’ll love them.

Do you plan your meals the week before?

No. Kirstin Uhrenholdst developed the recipes and I’ve taken cooking lessons from her. I cook four times a week and she cooks twice. My 14-year-old now cooks with us. It’s her genius. We focused on family food. Every single recipe in this book has been a success story in my house—and all the games, too.


A few of Laurie’s Genius Tips:

·      On days that you have more time, make a one-pot dish. Double your recipes when you’re cooking and freeze. Use your leftovers.

·      Always have certain things on hand so you can pull together a delicious meal in 15 minutes.

·      Fill a little glass jar filled with small spoons on your counter so you can grab a small spoon and taste things while you’re cooking.

·      Keep a small bowl of salt and pepper so you can pinch. “It’s what the professionals do.”

·      Tie it up. “When you put on a cool apron, you feel like, ‘hey, I’m an old-fashioned gal!’ I’m getting the mood going. I put on my apron that I probably got from Anthropologie.

·     Leave certain items on the lazy Susan so you’re not constantly setting the table again, such as napkins and spices that you use regularly. “It’s a great way to start the family fun. If you have a lazy Susan abuser, which every family has, you can take their privileges away. The whole thing about is having fun.”

·      “Put music on when you’re cooking! Sometimes when get stuck in a rut when you’re running around.”

The Family Dinner is available now at www.chaptersindigo.ca

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