When I think about family mealtimes, I see my young self with my parents and my brother around the same table; I see my own kids and my wife and the myriad occasions that we have sat together to eat. I think of those special occasions when, often with others, we have celebrated a birthday or an achievement.
My wife Alison and I have always put the highest value on organising our lives so that we can have as many family meals as possible with our two children Ella and Paddy. Ella talks about the security of our Sunday pancakes routine, and Paddy enjoys getting involved in the day-to-day cooking. They have memories that hinge on family mealtime experiences - like the time we made a warming stew to eat outside in the February snow!
Ella and Paddy have become talented cooks, which I am sure is partly down to our family culture of offering them what we want to eat and of eating together. It hasn't always worked: I can think of meals they've walked away from having barely eaten a thing - but they survived! It's much easier to cook one meal for everyone and it's worth being brave.
With that in mind, Ella's Kitchen has launched its fourth cookbook - The Easy Family Cookbook - featuring hundreds of easy, delicious recipes fit for the whole family. As well as hundreds of recipes designed for a variety of meal occasions, the new cookbook features some simple tips and advice about ways parents can involve their little ones at mealtimes to help develop a healthy relationship with food.
We believe that if children learn from a young age that good food is for everyone and that mealtimes are positive experiences that create social occasions during which we can share stories, connect with each other, and have fun, they'll go on to develop a healthy love of food that will last a lifetime.
We've even validated this by commissioning the British Nutrition Foundation to review studies and existing literature on the best ways to help children develop a healthy relationship with food. The research revealed, as we'd always believed, that involving children in cooking, and eating together as a family can help establish healthy eating habits.
As a dad of two, I know it's not always practical for everyone to sit around the table to eat at the same time every day, but I encourage families to do it as often as possible. Not only will it help your little ones develop a positive relationship with food, but you'll also enjoy spending quality time together, sharing stories and have fun!
Alison, Ella, Paddy and I, along with the whole Ella's Kitchen gang, hope families enjoy using the recipes in the new cookbook as much as we enjoyed creating them.