When I was growing up, we ate dinner seated as a family almost every night of the week. Everything was always properly set, and my mother never put a food container directly on the table. I thought the whole process silly; it took extra time and required extra dish washing to put full place settings at each place and to use serving dishes instead of, for example, the plastic container of sour cream. My mother would say, “One day you might find yourself at lunch or dinner with someone who will judge you by your manners, and you’ll be glad you know by habit what to do.” My sister and I thought our mother was being ridiculous. Life has, of course, taught us that she was right; so I put my children through the same torture every week:
- Forks on the left, spoon and knife on the right; blade of knife facing the plate; knife next to plate
- Do not begin eating until everyone is seated
- When you pass food or condiments, do not hand them to the person but rather set the dish on the table
- Leave your napkin on your chair, not the table, if you must rise and excuse yourself mid-meal
- Do not explain in any detail the reason for your needing to be excused mid-meal
- Lower plates from the left when serving, raise from the right when clearing
- And, of course, do not speak while chewing food
They roll their eyes, just like my sister and I did, but one day they’ll thank me.
Most dinner suggestions have links for suggested recipes, and the shopping list includes all of the items required for the suggested recipes, with the exception of the corn in the polenta/mushroom ragout – I just can’t see putting corn with mushrooms.
For homemade pizza, you’ll need either to make dough or to purchase a crust. I didn’t include a recipe link because there are so many options. We usually make a basic dough, use pasta sauce and cover with cheese. We’re simple folk.