A little ambiance, please.

When we moved into this house, I lobbied hard to use our large front room as a formal dining room. Not a surprise considering my various theories about eating together as a family, but it has the only fireplace on the main floor, and Marc wanted to put a TV in the room so he could watch football with a fire going. We already have a great room (just no fireplace in there), so I stood my ground. And won.

And then we proceeded to let dust accumulate in the dining room. Outside of holidays, we rarely entered what is really a pretty room. I really like the room, and Marc is a pyromaniac that loves the fireplace, so a few weeks ago we decided it was time to eat Sunday dinners in the dining room on a regular basis. Tonight we started a fire in the fireplace, I lit candles on the table (which had a table cloth on it!) and dimmed the lights.

The results were truly magical. We all sat for more than ten minutes. We ate, talked, and barely fought. Nothing was spilled. The kids were fascinated with the dimmed lights, especially after we figured out that the bulb in the corner was not the correct kind, so it didn’t dim with the others. Which meant that one chair had a shining spotlight. So the golden child decided to sit in it and meditate. Rather loudly, so I am not sure it worked.

The irony is that the food was nothing remarkable. This past week has been “Clean Out the Freezer” week in our house, so I have been creatively using all my frozen extras so I can clear space for the holidays and get all my food storage containers back. Tonight I made chicken cacciatore with a container of frozen red sauce and a package of frozen chicken thighs. All I needed to buy were mushrooms. Everyone liked it, especially because I put it over spaghetti.

You basically just brown the chicken, remove it and saute onion, garlic and mushrooms, then add red sauce (or tomatoes), wine, oregano and crushed red pepper. Put the chicken back in and simmer.

The point of the ambiance is not that it makes the food taste better, but that it makes the food less important. With kids that may be picky, try making dinner about something other than the food. Before they know it, they may actually eat. Plus if it is dark enough, they have no idea what they are eating…

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