Little Waiters: Involving Kids in the Dinner Party

LIZ WILLIAMS (this article was first published in August 2012)

Albert Anker: Kinderfrühstück, 1879

When my children were still young enough to want to be with the grown-ups, we bought them tee shirts that were silk-screened to look like tuxedos. When we had company over for dinner, the kids would wear their “waiter” t-shirts, hang a dish towel over an arm, and greet our guests. Their first duty was to ask the guests what they wanted to drink. Sometimes we would have a cocktail prepared, and sometimes it was wine or beer. Each child could carry a small tray with a drink prepared by Rick (husband and father) or me in the kitchen. But before the guests had arrived, the kids would help me set the table and prepare the meal. I would serve them the meal before the guests arrived. And that made it possible for them to discuss the food with our guests as they helped serve and clear the table. They could explain how the food would taste as well as how it was prepared. Of course, they loved the attention that they would receive from the guests. We loved that we had such well behaved children. And they really learned alot about food and entertaining. They were allowed to watch television or a movie in the kitchen while we ate, until it was time for bed.  Their help and their participation made for fun dinner parties.

In the kitchen I could rely on the children to be helpful when they were asked to do something real, that contributed to the meal. They had an uncanny radar about and an allergic reaction to busy work. One favorite  that we often served involved a tapenade of black olives in one bowl and a green olive and almond spread served in another. We served it with bread and various cheeses. The green olive version was also a tasty vegetable dip.


Photo by KoS, via Wikimedia Commons.

Green Olive and Almond Tapenade

  • 1 1/2 cup of green olives (they are best cured in olive oil, but you can use jarred green olives in brine)
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves (ask your children to pick the leaves off of the stems)
  • 1/2 cup almonds (toast the almonds lightly. I use whatever I have on hand, sometimes whole ones with their skins, sometimes slivered or sliced almonds.)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • Olive oil, about ¾ cup

Place all ingredients except the olive oil into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 10 times. Children love to push the pulse button. When things begin to mix add the olive oil in a stream while the food processor is running. Hold back about a third of the oil. The spread should be spreadable. Add more oil as needed to achieve a good consistency.

Serve with bread or vegetables. Garnish with a slice of lemon.

My children loved this dip. Don’t assume that yours won’t like it. Mine loved to dip strips of crispy red bell pepper in the green tapenade.

animal crackers



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