You know the moment: dinner is not quite ready but the kids are starving. You don’t want to give them a snack because that would ruin everything. What do you do?
First, I enlist them. Even Finn, at 5, is old enough to set the table. And if they know that I’ll get dinner on the table more quickly, they’re glad to help out. And I, of course, am glad for the help.
Then, I find something fast and healthy and good-looking to give them that won’t ruin dinner. I make them sit down at the place they just set and enjoy it, their precursor to dinner. In other words, they get a kid’s appetizer. These days, it’s often a tomato surprise, but what I serve depends on the season (what’s fresh and ready-to-go?) and the dinner plan. Pulling a side dish from your menu and serving it first can sate your kids’ hunger and also create that sense of ceremony and specialness that comes with eating in courses. They have to slow down to eat, they eat one thing at a time, they feel like they’re getting a treat, or something special, and most important your meal isn’t hijacked by little ravenous appetites, (and theirs) isn’t ruined.
I think it’s important that it look good, so it feels like the beginning of dinner, not something you threw to the zoo animals. Also, it should be very, very simple. For instance, last week, they got a cute dish of sugar snaps, and a small slice of bread with fresh mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and a little salt.
For an added treat, I put a splash of homemade (by Ella) lemonade in their bubbly water and added a garnish of lime. They have a thing about limes.