Look at that adorable face. I'm sure you're probably thinking, "What a little angel! I bet butter wouldn't melt in her mouth." She's a sweetheart, no doubt, but don't let that infectious smile fool you. She can derail an entire week of painstakingly planned and prepared dinners with an offhand, "Oh, I don't like that anymore," even though she ate that three times last week and specifically requested that. She may only have a first-grade education; however, she is capable of performing a complex dinner calculus in her head that would make Isaac Newton proud. Her equations usually involve a width-to-height ratio used to determine exactly what constitutes a bite (generally anything bigger than a grain of rice) -- useful for determining how many said bites of dinner must be consumed before she can have dessert.
This is why I was absolutely thrilled to be chosen to participate in Jenny Rosenstrach's Dinner: The Playbook Challenge. I'm a huge fan of Jenny's, going back to her days at Cookie Magazine. Oh, how I miss Cookie! It was through Cookie that I first fell in love with Ribollita, and through Ribollita that my Italian husband first fell in love with me! Since then, Jenny has continued to spread her evangelical zeal for family dinner with two books, Time for Dinner (coauthor), and Dinner: A Love Story. Both books serve as inspiration, entertainment, and commiseration for busy parents trying to get food on the table and the family gathered around it, so that all of the wonderful things that happen when a family sits down to eat together can happen. Dinner: The Playbook continues that tradition but also acts as a guide to the nuts and bolts of navigating picky eaters, conflicting schedules, tired parents and clashing tastes. It's a practical tool that I've carried around with me since the day I received it (and devoured it in one sitting), scribbling notes, folding down pages and underlining passages. I have used it to perform my own dinner calculus, designed to get the cutie pictured above to eat something besides seven bites of barbecued chicken (this big) and eleven green beans. On the menu for tonight: Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas.