Our sages say, “No flour, no Torah.” And so it is with raising children. No food: no peace. A milkshake and a nap – the secret ingredients to family tranquility. Fill their bellies–like God did for the wandering Israelites in that harsh desert so long ago–and then, maybe, you can talk and reason and enjoy each other.
Bring the food on–regularly, quickly, deliciously. Entice them with things they like to eat, things they look forward to eating, and perhaps then a discussion can ensue. Get the family around the table to eat, and laugh and engage–and everything else is commentary.
And make the food good and enticing enough and who knows–they may leave their respective nests to return for a visit, share a meal, and continue the conversation.
Here’s my secret dish, one that calmed down countless ornery childhood episodes.
Kids Macaroni and Cheese
Elbow macaroni, cooked
Milk, 2% or whole
Sliced American cheese
Individual 10-ounce pyrex glass bowl
1. Fill individual pyrex dish half-way with macaroni. Layer slice of American cheese on top. Add more macaroni on top of cheese. Place one more slice on top of that. Pour 2 tablespoons milk on the macaroni and cheese.
2. Place dish in microwave on top of small plate, to catch spillage. Microwave on high for 45 seconds.
4. Prepare to make more.
Another dish that can quickly satisfy a roaring wave of hunger, for adults and kids alike is pasta with pesto sauce. Make the pesto in advance, freeze the batch in small containers, and defrost and mix with macaroni at a moment’s notice. This one is especially nice when combined with frozen baby peas (keep a box in the freezer; no need to defrost), a can of white meat tuna and thinly sliced fresh red pepper.
Colorful, flavorful, filling and fast.
2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and spun dry
1 cup shelled walnuts
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Romano cheese
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Combine the basil and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor.
2. With the motor running, add olive oil in a steady stream.
3. Once combined, transfer pesto to a glass bowl. Stir in cheeses, salt and pepper to taste.
4. Freeze in 4-6 ounce containers, to be defrosted as needed!
These recipes fortify me now that my children are gone from the house. The three little birds I lovingly fed and fussed over have flown the nest, off to build homes and lives of their own. And I am left with more space, more time for me and the food wisdom I picked up while raising them. Because, in the end, so much comes down to the food.
The God of the Israelites certainly knew that. When he arranged for their miraculous departure from Egypt, split the sea, they grumbled. Things quieted down only once the food began to come regularly and plentifully–it rained down from the heavens in the form of manna.
Fast forward several thousand years and those Israelites and their descendants are still grumbling when their stomachs are empty. Bob Marley sang: No woman, no cry. I would add my own twist for parents: A full belly, no cry.
It is no wonder that the Passover seders are the most widely attended Jewish event of the year’s cycle. The seders have it all: Family, community, story telling, meaning, all bound up in metaphorical foods and a long and languorous meal. Eggs and salt! Apple walnut sandwiches! Greens and wine. And then, a multi course meal. Our sages say, “No flour, no Torah.” That meal has both. And for the rest of the year, there are those quick and easy recipes that satisfy children, fast.