When I first wrote up my outline for this blog, back to school dinners seemed a sensible choice given school starts this week for many families around the country. Nowadays, we all seem to be running short on time. People rely on meals out of boxes and bags, thinking there’s not enough time to cook. I wanted to offer you tips and ideas for making weeknight cooking easier.
Then something happened to change my perspective and outlook.
My husband died suddenly.
When I say suddenly, I mean just that. He was helping our daughter ride her bike, told her he needed to sit for a moment, then keeled over from a massive heart attack. Some of you, perhaps many, probably know about this already given the amazing show of support and love that has filled the food community.
So, why am I here talking to you all about back-to-school dinner ideas?
There are two little girls depending on me for love, support and hot meals daily. The team here at Food Network has been amazing. Honestly, I wish I could be standing over their shoulder as they open this email and wonder if I’ve lost my mind, handing in copy for an article just eight days after my husband, the love of my life and father to my children, was ripped right out of life.
As I try to learn a new kind of normal, there will be one constant to keep me going: food. The simple act of slicing some peaches two days after Mikey died gave me a sense of control when my world was lacking it. This is what food and cooking has the power to do.
This is why family dinners are important, and should be something we all strive to make part of our regular routines. It doesn’t require an elaborate or time-intensive meal. All it means is real food, made with real ingredients. Choose a recipe that fits your time frame. Pull out the crock pot if that’s your thing. Make a pot of soup as the nights inevitably grow colder, and you’ll have dinner for at least two meals the coming week. Instead of looking at dinnertime as yet another chore, seize it for the gift it really is — a time to come together as a family and talk about your day, say grace or clink glasses and cherish the moment with each bite.
Jennifer Perillo is a recipe developer and food writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her recipes and tips for feeding families homemade meals are a regular feature in Working Mother magazine, where she’s the consulting food editor, as well Relish Magazine, Parenting, Kiwi and her blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen.