Miller steps up to the plate to offer tips on family dinners
Associate Director of Annual Giving Mia Miller and her family recently sat down to a home-cooked dinner.
Princeton NJ — Rushing home from a day at the office and getting a healthy dinner on the table for your family is no easy chore, as most working parents know. A new book about accomplishing that task features tips from Mia Miller of Princeton’s development office on how to put together a quick, delicious meal.
Miller’s dinnertime routine—complete with her toddler son trying to climb into the refrigerator as she chops vegetables—is one of several featured in Marialisa Calta’s “Barbarians at the Plate: Taming and Feeding the Modern American Family,” (Perigee Books, 2005), a lighthearted look at mealtime in the American household.
“I laughed out loud at the description of my family in the book, because dinnertime is pretty chaotic,” said Miller, who has a 5-year-old daughter, Sophia, and a 3-year-old son, Grayson.
The author describes the erosion of family dinner time and makes the case for why families should make it a priority to sit down together.
“We should bother because cooking and eating together can teach us—among other things—cooperation, respect and patience,” Calta writes. “Because studies indicate that teenagers who eat dinner with their families at least five nights a week are less likely to take drugs or be depressed, and that they do better in school and in relationships. Because almost anything we cook ourselves is going to be more nutritious than something we buy in a frozen tray or at a drive-through window.”
Miller cooks dinner for her family most nights—even though they could eat for free at the cafeteria of the Lawrenceville School, where her husband, Matt, teaches—because “it’s what we always did growing up. And before we had kids my husband and I always sat down together for dinner. It’s just part of life.”
Among the book’s 100 recipes are Miller’s parmesan chicken and ginger-marinated pork tenderloin. Miller, who is Princeton’s associate director of annual giving, likes to scan the Internet for recipes, which she prints out and keeps in binders in her kitchen.
“I’ll say, ‘I have chicken and spinach in the house. Let me look online and see what I can do with that,’” she recalled. She shops on weekends and sometimes on the way to work, putting the food in the refrigerator at her office. Sometimes she turns the leftovers from Sunday night’s roast beef into Monday’s beef stroganoff, but generally she doesn’t plan her meals ahead, preferring to make what she feels like eating on any given day. She is fortunate that her children are good eaters who will consume fish, chicken and sushi.
Miller’s colleague Pam Mendels, a senior editor in the development office, was the one who gave her name to the book’s author, who is an old friend of Mendels.
“Mia is a genuine foodie,” Mendels said. “She’s the kind of person who would visit Minnesota, schlep home some right-out-of-the-garden rhubarb she’d been delighted to find there and then whip up a rhubarb crisp. She once brought into the office a sample of that very dish for me. It was great, and then I knew for sure that Mia was the real item: a good cook who knows that fresh food matters.”
And Miller seems to be succeeding in passing her interest in cooking onto the next generation.
“My daughter was at day care one day playing kitchen,” Miller recalled, “and she told her teacher, ‘I have to go on the Internet and look up a recipe.’”