This year no one was a big fan of our first course, the salad course (I know many cultures eat salad at the end of the meal, but not us). For the girls I filled little plastic bowls with lettuce and ranch dressing and for the grown ups I toasted pine nuts, hand grated parmigiana, diced green olives and red onion and dressed it all with a terrific balsamic vinegar and oil I bought in Italy last summer. I set down the bowls in front of my family members thinking it was a home run. Unfortunately, none of them could pay attention to anything beyond the scent of lasagna that was wafting through our house.
Do we have to eat all this salad? Madeleine asked with a long sigh. I looked across the table at four inquiring faces, including their father's. I don't think the girls had more than four pieces of lettuce in their bowl and Jeremy's wasn't filled much more than that.
Your salad bowl has to be empty before you get to have the main course, I sternly answered. My family loves lasagna, and therefore it is not an exaggeration to say that every single salad bowl was emptied in three minutes flat. Now, I spend a good portion of my daily life encouraging my kids (and my husband) to eat their greens. Sometimes dinnertime is extended by thirty or forty minutes because there is a lingering child pushing her lettuce around her plate with a fork instead of eating it. Well, I am pleased to announce that that phase of my life is officially over. There is a new salad sheriff in town and her law goes like this: You must eat your salad (or vegetables) before your main course will be served. No exceptions.
In the last two weeks our dinner time routine has witnessed a complete turn around. Some days they start to whine, but I flash my "I mean business and you will spend the rest of your evening longing for this delicious looking dinner if you don't get busy" look and inevitably they sit down and eat their salad in record time. When I say salad, I really mean a few lettuce leaves with ranch dressing or maybe some carrot sticks and cucumber slices, but most of the time I don't even think they care what's in their salad bowl. They just eat it and get it over with so they can move on to the good stuff. No more long, drawn out negotiations. No more threats that they will lose dessert privileges. No more grandiose speeches about how vegetables help you grow tall and strong like Elasti-Girl or Princess Leia. And that, my friends, is the story of how vegetables came to be part of our family.