Q&A: Laurie David on the Importance of Sharing a Meal

Laurie David's new book chronicles the lost art of the family dinner. Some advice on how the rest of us might make shared meals more of a routine.

Are shared meals with friends and family a regular part of your life? If you're anything like most of us, the answer is likely no. Laurie David, environmental activist and an ex-wife of Larry David, is hoping to change that with a new book called The Family Dinner. Part-cookbook, part-shared meal bible, it chronicles her family's relationship to the lost art of eating together and offers tips for how the rest of us might make shared meals more of a routine.

GOOD: Environmental activist or radical family dinner revolutionary. Which is more fun?

LAURIE DAVID: Every issue I care about crosses the dinner table—from how far food travels to get to your plate, to how much meat we're eating. With the decline of the family dinner in the last 30 years, with the popularity of the microwave and processed foods, and not to mention the influx of women in the workplace, we've seen an explosion of health problems and it's no coincidence—it's completely connected to the fact that we're no longer eating home-cooked, fresh food anymore.

GOOD: How did this book project come about?

LD: It's the most personal thing I’ve ever done. One night, after having gone through a divorce and seen my share of ups and downs, I was sitting at the dinner table with my two teenage daughters (now 14 and 16). Dessert had been over for half an hour and my kids were still sitting at the table, talking away. I knew in that moment that I had done something right as a parent and I wanted to share the wisdom and the recipes I've learned.

GOOD: Why is sharing a meal so important?

LD: The book is for anyone, kids or no kids. Your family is whoever you sit down to a meal with; the key is how we connect to each other. For kids in particular, regular shared meals increase self-esteem, resiliency, and academic achievement. At the dinner table, kids become civilized, learning how to be patient and make conversation. Marshall Duke, a professor at Emory University, who studies rituals, recently conveyed to me what makes dinner so powerful: The dinner table is the number one place where family stories and family history is passed on. When we stop having dinner, we stop passing on these stories.

GOOD: Are you a good cook?

LD: I definitely have to follow recipes. I’m not someone who can invent recipes and I almost always leave out an ingredient. But I love to cook and I love everything about cooking, love the smells in the house, love creating the mood, love having guests over.

GOOD: Tell us about family dinner after divorce.

LD: Here’s the thing, more than half of all marriages end in divorce. When parents split up, people stop doing rituals, everyone's hurt, everyone's a mess. It's also the time families need rituals more than ever before. Family dinners got us through that miserable time and even got my ex-husband back to the table. Now we eat together as a family every other week.

GOOD: Your rituals include: Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Shabbat Friday, and "If It's Sunday, We Must Be Eating Chinese Takeout." What's your biggest tip for starting the ritual of a shared meal besides setting a regular time and drinking tap (versus bottled) water?

LD: The most important thing about the shared meal is sitting down. Your meal can be soup and a salad, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches—not three courses and a homemade crumble from the oven. Or do ritual lunches or ritual breakfasts. The single most important thing is the yact of sitting down and talking. No screens, no phone, no TV. Your brain needs the rest. And after dinner, everyone can go back to doing their solitary thing.

Author photo credit: Maryellen Baker.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

Keep Reading Show less
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

Keep Reading Show less
via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

Keep Reading Show less