Family dinner conference bannerI’m back!
Most of you know (because I didn’t stop talking about it for weeks) that I was in New York City last Thursday, presenting a talk at the first-ever Family Dinner Conference.  The event was organized by the unbelievably energetic Billy of Time at the Table, and brought together what I would consider to be some of the best, brightest, and most collaborative-spirited bloggers in the family dinner advocacy sphere.  The lineup included:

Aviva of The Six O’Clock Scramble
Eila of The Full Plate Blog
Pam Koch from the Kids Cook Monday
Billy, Grace, and Kathleen from Blog for Family Dinner
Dr. Grace Freedman of
Kathleen Cuneo from Empowered Parenting
And yours truly, of course

This powerhouse lineup was bookended by amazing keynote addresses from Jenny of Dinner: A Love Story and Jennifer Grossman, representing the Dole Nutrition Institute.  In other words, if you wanted to learn  practically ANYTHING about family dinner, this conference was the place to be.  It was only enhanced by the fact that much of the audience was also accomplished bloggers and devoted family dinner activists — including longtime RRG friends Bettina of The Lunch Tray, Sally of Real Mom Nutrition, and Alissa of The Simply Wholesome Kitchen, and venerable nutritionist Dina Rose of It’s Not About Nutrition.

Whew.  Just looking at all those names and blogs makes me shake my head in wonderment, once again, at having been a part of it!
It would be impossible, frankly, for me to actually tell you in words what happened at the conference.  I didn’t manage to even give J. a coherent run-down until just last night, despite the fact that I arrived home (somewhat disgruntled and bedraggled, after battling to get myself back to New England in the midst of Amtrak’s closure of the Northeast corridor during all the eventfulness around Boston last week) on Saturday afternoon.  There was simply too much to hear, too much to absorb, to properly convey all the wonderful ideas and insights to anyone without giving short shrift.

So I’ll sum it up in one word:

Dr. Grace Freedman presented us with some amazing research on the power of family dinners, the main takeaway of which was that in order to have a truly meaningful family dinner experience, the most important ingredient is laughter.  As I look back on the whole experience of the conference, and the power of that one piece of data, I realize that laughter actually was a theme that ran through the whole day for me.

There was such a sense of camaraderie, dedication, and excitement in that room that I could have laughed out loud from the sheer delight of being among like-minded peers.  There were smiles and shared chuckles around tables and at the smoothie bar.  There was the laughter that greeted my presentation — riddled with goofy photos of my kids and my somewhat trademark verbal absurdity.  And there was a phenomenally fun, interesting, enlivening dinner afterwards with many of my colleagues, with more laughter, drinks, shared food, shared stories…shared everything.

We not only talked about family dinner; we HAD a family dinner.  Because, as an astute attendee pointed out during my talk, families can be defined in all kinds of ways.  And clearly, we happy crew of advocates and allies made ourselves a tidy little family.

I wish you all could have been there to round out the big, happy family time; but even though most of you weren’t, every reader of RRG was with me in spirit.  You all have made it possible for me to take part in such a fantastic and inspiring event, and I thank you wholeheartedly for your everlasting support, not just of me, but of the cause: Better food, better families, better dinners, and a better world for everyone.

I’ll close with an invitation to you all to take a little action tonight, so you can be even more a part of the spirit of the conference.  Here’s a roundup of links to some fun and interesting ways to support family dinner, food systems change, and greater awareness out in the world.  Oh, and as a reward, I thought I’d also share a fun and tasty recipe for Almond Butter-Chocolate Chip Cereal Treats — just because I love you.  And, you know.  Because…thanks.

Sign and share the Family Dinner Challenge with the Six O’Clock Scramble!

Make a Kickstarter donation to help Get Fresh upgrade their kitchen facilities, so they can bring more fresh food to busy families!  (And get a sample of their granola in return…what’s better than that?)

Donate to HandPicked Nation’s “HandPicked Stories” project, a series of short films spotlighting the unsung heroes who make real food possible.

Sign the petition from Die, Food Dye, requesting that artificial colorings be removed from prescription drugs and personal care items for children.