This meal will get your child into Harvard 🎓

 

Is it roasted fish packed with brain-boosting omegas?

No.

Is it lasagna fortified with iron-rich kale and anti-oxidant tomatoes?

No.

The meal is….get this…drum roll please…dinner!

Yes. It’s that simple.

Dinner.

Some of you may know that before I became a cooking teacher of grandiose spiel, I was a high school world history teacher at New Roads, a highly diverse college preparatory school dedicated to creating a student body that authentically mirrored the wonderful diversity that is Los Angeles.

I had students from both star-studded families and immigrant families living in the inner city. I had highly intellectual students, dyslexic students, musically and artistically gifted students, high functioning autistic students who had difficulty socializing and seeing the “grey area,” physically handicapped students and simply put, many not-so-gifted students who still had not found “their thing” and needed to be ignited by passionate and compassionate teachings. The colors of the rainbow.

Note: When many of you ask me how I have the patience to handle a dozen happy yapping cooking students all at once, believe me, nothing prepares you for staying calm in the kitchen than having to find common ground with wildly diverse adolescents, most of whom would rather be asleep, masturbating, doing drugs or playing video games.

They weren’t all Harvard bound, and my job wasn’t to transform them all into Ivy league candidates. That would have been impossible. My mission was to inspire a life-long love of learning in each and every student, no matter their background or ability. (Likewise it was also my job to be certain they could analyze information in order to form well-expressed, empathic opinions. I can promise that you none of my 10th graders, now college grads, have fallen for any “fake news,” but that’s another story.)

So what does this have to do with dinner? 

I’m getting there right now.

In my experience there was ONE THING, and one thing only, that separated the good students from the rest.

Can you guess what that ONE THING is?

It wasn’t money. It wasn’t race. It’ wasn’t learning abilities or disabilites.

It was easy to spot those students who came from families that ate dinner together. Families that break bread together, have deep conversations together. Especially after parent conferences, I could easily pick out which parents sat to eat with their kids and involved their children in conscious conversations.

Those were the students who made my life easy. The students who were already good at learning. Who enjoyed learning. Who weren’t intimidated by facts and complex situations. Who had well-developed vocabularies. Who weren’t sheltered from the complex reality of the world children and adults are sharing together.

Growing up between our activities and my mom going back to school we had busy schedules, however my mother made Friday night Shabbat dinners mandatory. I remember my father telling us what he read in the newspaper that day, what he read in the Harvard Medical School Journal of Health, what he read in the World War II history books he devoured. These were by no means topics “for little girls” per se, but these were subjects that interested him and he shared his adult world with us. In large part thanks to these dinner conversations, my sisters and I all felt very comfortable in school. I am very grateful for this.

To bolster my observations, here are two articles that talk about the importance of eating together as a family.

The Atlantic: The Importance of Eating Together
The Washington Post: The Most Important Thing You Can Do With Your Kids- Eat Dinner With Them

I understand that the news in today’s world is not the best for digesting food well, but the topic doesn’t need to be current events. Think about the cool foreign film you saw, the art exhibit, the cause for the charity event you went to. Think historical heroes, think the novel you are reading, the rabbi’s Yom Kippur sermon, your travels before you even had kids. Whatever interests you. Open the discussion. The possibilities are endless. The exact topic isn’t important.

What is important: MAKE DINNER!!

And guess, what? You are a Meal and a Spiel-er. That means you have access to the best recipes that you either learned in class or have gotten off my website or videos.

Need some reminders?

My favorite go to tomato sauce: Simple Tomato and Basil Sauce.
My favorite Friday night chicken: Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Prunes.
My simplest and most popular roasted vegetable. Popcorn Cauliflower.

The tutors, the extracurriculars, the hammering down at home work hour….nothing will work the charm like a family dinner conversation. It’s a meal and a spiel !! 😜

Cook with love. Share with love. Listen with love.

Written from love,
Elana

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