Create the Menu Together
You can't bond over brussels sprouts if your kids won't eat them. "Look at cookbooks with your kids and ask them what sounds good," he says. Get them in on the shopping, too. "They'll get a thrill from being a part of the whole experience."
Theme Your Meals
"Close your eyes and place your finger on a map. Wherever it lands, that's the theme of the evening," Batali says. "So many times we settle for routine dishes. This forces you to try new cuisines." Venezuelan, anyone?
Give Everyone a Task
"Kids enjoy taking part in a project, no matter how small the job," Batali says. His sons, Leo and Benno, like creating the mise en place -- prepping and measuring out ingredients. Tasks like cleaning produce also make kids feel they played a key role.
Make Dinnertime Learning Time
"When I serve a particular Italian dish, I'll talk about its origins, the region it's from and so on," Batali says. "Sometimes I'll make a quiz out of it -- the winner gets out of helping me wash the dishes!"
Cleaning Up Can Wait
The next time you and your family finish a great meal, do us a favor: Wait. Don't clear the table yet. The dishes will still be there for the washing in 10 minutes, maybe 15 -- after you've finished your jokes, your day's stories, your second glass of wine. Don't let cleaning up trump enjoying dinner (and yes, that's an experience that continues even after the food is gone). After all, what's the point of cooking a meal if you're going to rush through it like it came in a wrapper out of a window?
Check out Barilla's Share the Table program for more of Mario Batali's ideas on making dinnertime family time.
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