At big holiday meals, I will often print these questions and put one under each person's plate. Varying the questions -- instead of having everyone answer the same question -- tends to keep folks more engaged. A printable copy of this list is here.
"Not my favorite" side dishes and meals get served every week and sprinkled in when I am in the mood to eat something different. While I may acknowledge that it is a bummer you are not crazy about the asparagus I put on your plate, I will still make you eat some without complaint.
Here are some of the connections I researched while working on my book, Home for Dinner. And remember, none of these requires a gourmet meal or a trip to the bookstore. Library books and a takeout pizza are just as good.
Our surroundings are stacked against us. After school activities go late. Bosses don't always let us go home at the right time. And we have been programmed to think that macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers are an appropriate dinner for children.
Despite my best efforts to woo you with my dazzling new dinners, you continue to cheat on me and savor healthy food in the home of another mother. And not just any mother; you've chosen Ms. Polly, the mother who lives right next door.
We're hardly perfect. Sometimes it's delivery pizza with no meaningful dialogue at all. Sometimes we've even fought at the table. But measuring ourselves against our purpose has made us more intentional and created a better environment than we would have otherwise.
Supper tonight was a family favorite: steaks smothered in tomato and olive sauce served with pasta.
After supper, we stay sitting around the table and chat for a while. Which is nice, right? Nice, normal family, chatting about nice, normal things.
Strategic slacking has enabled me to dramatically increase both the quality of my work and the amount I get done in a given day. It increases productivity because we don't think or work or create at the same rate throughout the day.
You know how your toddler sometimes screams the loudest before falling fast asleep? I finally figured out that if I can ride out the skepticism, the critiques and complaints for a few minutes at the beginning of a meal, we often arrive exactly where I'd hoped we would.
If you are getting stuck in the "Chicken Patty rut," then perhaps you will find my list helpful. Please comment with other dishes your kiddos enjoy! I try to keep dishes simple and leftover friendly, so my feelings are not hurt when she turns her head to them.