The dinner table has long been a central meeting place for family – the heart of the home, a place to connect with those you love.
A new study hosted on the Angus Reid Forum for Barilla Canada reveals that although nearly all Canadian parents surveyed feel sharing meals is important to connecting with their children, less than half have family meals every day.
To help encourage families make the most of dinnertime, Barilla Canada has launched Share the Table™, an initiative geared toward bringing families together and making mealtime a daily ritual. They’ve brought celebrity chef (and dad) David Rocco on board to help spearhead the movement, and share tips and tricks to help family with busy schedules get a homemade meal on the table more regularly.
“Dinner is an occasion when everyone can come together, cook and share the day’s events in a relaxed atmosphere,” says David Rocco, host of Food Network’s Dolce Vita and author of multiple cookbooks. “As a father myself, I keep dinnertime with my family free of outside
distractions, and I’m encouraging families to get everyone involved in preparing and enjoying dinnertime to make a positive difference in their lives.”
With three young children, twin girls Emma and Giorgia, and son, Dante, and a busy schedule in Toronto with his wife and business partner, Nina Rocco, David understands the importance of mealtime in our day to day lives. We chatted with him about how he faces the same challenges so many Canadian parents do.
What are your favourite ways to involve your own kids in mealtime prep?
DR: My kids love coming into the kitchen and pushing their chairs up to the stove or counter to see what they can do to help. I’ll get them to squish tomatoes with their hands, tear up basil leaves or stir the sauce on the stove. Now that they’re a little older, I’ll even have them open up the pasta box and pour it into the boiling water. I find if they’re involved in making the meal, they’re more likely to eat the meal.
Do you have any mealtime rules (such as no electronics at the table)?
DR: Yes, there are absolutely no electronics allowed at the table and the kids have to stay at the table until everyone is finished. But, I have to say, they often don’t mind hanging around at mealtime because I’m the coolest dad around and they want to spend as much time with me as possible.
Did you cook with your own parents or grandparents growing up?
DR: I definitely spent some time in the kitchen with my mom and grandmother, but when I was a kid, the emphasis wasn’t so much on cooking together but rather eating together. We’d always be outside playing or riding around the neighbourhood on our bikes, and my parents would insist that we all come in, sit down, and enjoy a meal together. That’s why I’m so happy to support Barilla’s Share the Table Initiative to make mealtime more meaningful – family meals were such an important part of my life. To this day, those meals are still something I enjoy that make me feel more connected to everyone. Now that distractions for kids are at an all-time high, I’ve found it’s even more important to bring everyone to the table.
You have a busy travel schedule – you have any advice for eating well on the road? With or without your family?
DR: It’s really hard to stay on track sometimes because eating is such a huge part of what I do. When I’m shooting the show, I’m eating throughout the day, and then when we wrap, I want to go out and eat with the crew to unwind. So, it’s actually constant eating! But when I’m doing events or I’m on the road with clients, I make more of an effort to eat more balanced meals. Moderation is definitely the key.
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about cooking pasta properly?
DR: You absolutely do not have to put oil in the water! Your pasta won’t stick. Just stir for 10 or 15 seconds. The most important thing to remember when cooking pasta is to cook it until it’s just al dente — firm, with a bit of bite and finish cooking it in the sauce. Drain the pasta when it’s al dente and then add it to the sauce along with some of the cooking water — it contains starches that will help the sauce bind to the pasta.