Today, I introduce a new food & family interview series with Skill It. – Anisa
Feeding Traditions is a series of interviews that explore the rich connections between food & family. When we talk about food, we are often talking about our history, culture, and traditions. Why do we eat what we eat? Who taught us how to cook? What recipes are linked in our minds with special occasions and everyday dinners? And what memories and skills do we hope to pass on to our children?
Feeding Traditions will give us a peek into our neighbors’ kitchens and celebrates the work we do to gather our loved ones around the dinner table. And it highlights the memories we all have formed around spending time with friends, family, and food.
Today Skill It interviews Line Daems. Line lives in Arlington MA with her husband and two children, ages 15 and 17. She is the co-owner of Kreatelier, an innovative textile product design studio, located on Hope Street in Providence RI, that sells their own originally designed products, handmade works by other artists, and a select group of other well-designed items including; bike baskets, totes, toys and organizers. They also provide home interior services and there is a beautiful space for classes and birthday parties.
Skill It: How would you describe your food culture and traditions?
Line: I’m Belgian and also lived in Germany and France before moving to the US. Living in different countries has given me different views. Wherever I lived I enjoyed getting to know local dishes together with friends and family. Eating together has always been a way to spend time with each other and celebrate important occasions. I guess we share traditions from everywhere, so we appreciate long sit down dinners with several courses and good wines, but also simple, easy, last-minute or potluck meals. Having fresh ingredients to prepare healthy meals has always been important.
Skill It: What is your earliest memory of family dinners?
Line: I have always had family dinners, and the evening sit down dinner has always been a time for catching up and making plans.
Skill It: How old were you when you first made something on your own in the kitchen? What was it?
Line: I was 6 and made a cake on my own. I had received a children’s cookbook with simple step-by-step recipes and proudly made all of them. I strongly believe that if children are exposed to cooking and get some guidance, they are capable of creating lots of dishes!
Skill It: Who taught you how to cook?
Line: My mother, grandmother & some wonderful cook books.
Skill It: How do you balance work, food and family?
Line: I don’t think I have been able to perfectly balance work, food, and family. I came to the conclusion that it all depends on how you want to live, what you want to do, and what is important to you. So sometimes I just have to accept the imbalance. In our family, food and family meals are important. Depending on all our schedules, some days will be more balanced than others. Breakfast and lunch are easy. There is always fresh food to make a simple healthy breakfast or lunch and this can take as much time as we decide we have. Family dinner can be tricky. We came up with a system that the 4 of us have to cook dinner at least one evening. This works well most of the time. It requires some organization but at the end it is great not to be in charge of dinner every day. My husband and I do the grocery shopping. We usually spend more time at the table during weekends which is nice to catch up with each other. I try to plan free time to spend with my family but work for Kreatelier often interferes. I love my business and work and sometimes have a hard time balancing it with family life.
Skill It: What meal do you “pull out of thin air” when you come home late without a plan for dinner?
Line: A simple salad with fresh ingredients such as tomatoes, lettuce, chicken breast, depending on what is available, accompanied by bread. Risotto is also a quick and easy meal that can be modified depending on what’s available in the kitchen. Cheese and bread is always quickly arranged. We recently bought a panini machine. It is great to combine whatever is available, add some fresh herbs and create a warm delicious panini accompanied with a salad! Pasta with pesto & some freshly grated parmesan is also one of our favorite quick dinners. You can see that we are used to pulling a meal out of thin air quite a lot…
Skill It: What is your favorite comfort food? Is it a family recipe?
Line: Homemade minestrone soup using fresh vegetables and herbs accompanied with warm bread. This is such a delicious soup and the kids can warm up a bowl when we are not at home.
Skill It: Do you have a traditional recipe from your childhood that you still make for special occasions or holidays today?
Line: Chicken slowly cooked with Belgian endives served with French gratin potatoes. The basic recipe is light cream, curry, chicken tenders & Belgian endives cooked together slowly for 2-3 hours. Children typically don’t like Belgian endives but in this dish, the bitter taste of the endives is gone.
Skill It: As a parent, what one dish have you learned will bring the whole family running to the dinner table?
Line: Pasta with fresh home-made pesto (basil and spinach), oven baked tomatoes and grated cheese.
Skill It: Where do you find inspiration, culinary or otherwise?
Line: Everywhere! When something captures my attention in magazines, restaurants, during dinners at a friend’s house, or when traveling, I immediately make a note to remind myself of simple and wonderful ideas, culinary or otherwise!
Skill It: Have your children expressed an interest in helping in the kitchen? What have you taught them to make?
Line: Yes, both children love to cook and experiment. It is clear to them that we all are busy and this will probably never change, so the habit of helping and cooking in the kitchen is indispensable. The first thing they learned was baking eggs and making smoothies. Now, they can make pasta and rice dishes and love to experiment with the food available and leftovers, something we do a lot!
Skill It: What do you hope your children will learn about food from you?
Line: I hope they learned and will keep up with the importance of buying and eating fresh food. It seems easier to order take-out food or buy ready-made food (with artificial flavors etc) and not bothering cooking to save time, but it’s not. In fact, time should be reserved to prepare and eat a fresh meal; it should be part of the day. Getting together to cook and have meals with family and friends are the most precious and important moments in life!
Skill It: Is there a piece of kitchen or cooking advice you would like to share with other families?
Line: I think it is important to always have certain basic food available in the kitchen, and then be creative in using whatever is there. We always make sure we have fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh bread (that we make ourselves), herbs, fresh cheese, pasta and rice, olive oil, milk and butter. Nothing can go wrong. We have different herbs and some vegetables in pots on our deck which we can see from the kitchen. It is inspiring and they are used every day in different ways. It is important that every family member feels responsible and is involved in cooking so it never becomes a stress factor for one person.
Skill It: Is there a question you ask your kids at the dinner table most nights?
Line: “How was your day?“
Skill It: What one thing about food and eating do you most want to teach your children?
Line: Buying and eating fresh local food and making time to cook and eat are an important part of taking care of yourself, the people around you, and your environment.