If your family is like mine, time and money are precious, and it is impractical to take many expensive trips or find time for outings due to other activities. That’s why dinnertime is a great built-in time where your family can have fun, but more importantly, you can have fun at the expense of your family.
One of my most favorite and time-tested ideas always elicits amusement for me. You can easily fit this five-minute jamboree into any day; in fact, I have prepared for this particular delight in the few minutes it takes for my children to get off the bus and walk in the door after school.
(Note: I like to employ this idea a day or so after hearing some considerable complaining about what I decide to make for dinner.)
First, get yourself an old-timey cookbook. Any one will do. My favorite is a Better Homes and Garden cookbook I inherited from my great-great-aunt, published circa 1958. It is in mint condition, either because she never cooked, or because she had two and kept this one as a collectible. These days, it serves this latter purpose. If you don’t have an old-timey cookbook, cruise the internet for some old recipes, preferably ones that contain words like “aspic” or “picnic loaf.”
Find a few choice recipes that call for ingredients clearly not in fashion anymore, or ones with horrible pictures with slices of hard-boiled eggs as a garnish for roast beef or maybe pictures containing cocktail wieners.
Make copies and distribute the recipes to each member of your family. Tell them that you are looking to expand your cooking repertoire, and ask them to choose one or two recipes that you have selected because of their simplicity or because “they just sound good.”
IMPORTANT: Do NOT actually make these recipes. You will poison yourself and your whole family. Our modern-day palates are not designed for the culinary adventures a 1950’s cookbook brings. Trust me.
An example of some recipes I like to use for Family Fun Night (please excuse the quality of photo):
|My favorite instruction in this "Variety Meats" section is to cook ingredients like brains and sweetbreads the day that you purchase them. You know, because after a day they are not fit for consumption.|
These will elicit the most fun for everyone if you have picky eaters who have not touched anything but chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese for three years, or if you find a new pre-teen vegetarian in your midst who has taken it upon himself to “educate” you about the pitfalls of an omnivorous lifestyle.
Be creative. Don’t just stick to the outline shown here. Family Fun Night can be any night where, as your family members breeze in the door asking “What’s for dinner?” as you slave over a hot stove, sweat dripping from your brow, you can point out one of the recipes that you have circled using a red pen, or if you are really creative, some beef blood. It is most important in this scenario to keep the illusion going as you all sit down to eat, even if you have prepared baked chicken or beef stroganoff. The power of suggestion is powerful, and they will think you are trying to poison them with chicken-fried heart or liver loaf. If someone in your family has a strong gagging reflex or temper tantrum about “eating trash,” be sure to have a camera ready to capture the magic.
All it takes is some forethought and minor prep time for good old fashioned family fun in the home, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Your family members will thank you for the good times you have shown them, and the memories made will last a lifetime.