Book Review: Dinner: The Playbook

Jenny Rosenstrach. Dinner: The Playbook. New York, Ballantine Books, 2014. 240 pages.

This is an easy-to-read, quite sensible guide to how to get your family’s eating back on track. It is also very ambitious. Author Jenny Rosenstrach wants you to plan your meals ahead for a whole month, and–this might be the hardest part–stick to the plan.

It is not as outrageous as it sounds–Rosenstrach makes the point that, doing it this way, your family will get used to trying new (and better) foods and you’ll be able to break the usual monotony. Still, it’s a big commitment, and frankly I haven’t made it–yet. I hope to some day, but in the meantime, I’m selecting recipes from the book and trying them out on the kids.

And guess what? They usually tolerate them, and sometimes like them. Rosenstrach makes it a point to get the kids involved in cooking, which I’ve always thought was important. It’s reassuring to see that someone whose job it is to figure out how to get families to eat better has the same approach.

The book starts with an introduction (I’ve noticed that many do) which lays out the author’s credentials and explains exactly just what she’s asking you to do. After that, Rosenstrach breaks down just exactly how you can get started on putting together a meal plan–and stick to it. She has helpful hints about what to prep and when, and how to best shop for food.

Then Rosenstrach gives us a few dozen recipes ranging from pasta with butternut squash and smoked paprika to creamy Greek chicken noodle soup. These are the “go-to weeknight meals,” which will form the backbone of your meal plan. They’re generally easy and somewhat quick to prepare. Following that are a few pages of “quick sides’ to supplement the mains. Then comes something I find interesting: “Keep the spark alive dinners,” which Rosenstrach says are there to remind us that “dinner is not just about eating.” These might take longer, but getting your kids involved will make for a more memorable and maybe even tastier meal.

As I said, I haven’t taken the plunge and committed to the meal plan, but I’m still getting a lot of use out of Dinner: The Playbook. I’ve been mixing in recipes from “go-to weeknight meals,” and it’s going reasonably well. Maybe someday I’ll actually adopt a meal plan, but even if I don’t, I feel like I’ve gotten inspiration and many good ideas (and meals) from this book.

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