Family meal hacks are largely focused on efficiency. Cook in bulk. Freeze a month's worth of dishes at once. Buy a slow cooker.
Photo: Nick Lee/Flickr
I get it. There's never enough time, and we need to keep moving the conveyor belt of belly-feeding. But what about the experience? What about the joy?
Here's a tip that can help make family mealtime special again: Name your dishes.
In a delightful Fatherly piece, Matt Berical writes about his childhood memories of his father, a lousy cook but a brilliant brand machine. His dad wasn't in charge of dinner very often, but on the nights that he was, he upped the magic by giving his dishes fun, catchy names. Dad's Famous Fried Bologna Sandwiches! Potatoes Mikey! Big Beef Chilli! "Everything had a name and everything was over seasoned with exclamation marks," Berical writes.
When he named his meals, my dad imbued them with power. Coupled with the rare appearances of him in the kitchen, the food took on an otherworldly quality. It wasn't dinner, it was special. Besides, my dad couldn't be bad at anything, let alone something he slapped his name on. It had to be good.
Looking back were his culinary creations delicious? Certainly not. But 8-year-old me didn't know the difference. All that little Optimus Prime-loving, big-headed little scamp knew was that dad was cooking and we were lucky enough to be treated to a signature meal.
So go ahead and name some of your favourite homemade dishes. I'm thinking about serving Super Duper Sesame Noodles, Mum's Best-Ever Beef Sandwiches and Crazy Good Chicken Curry. So what if you found the recipe on the back of a pasta box? Try this while your kids are easily impressed (and too young to inquire about intellectual property rights).