Smiley, 37, is a syndicated columnist and author of three books, I'm Just Saying, Going Overboard and Dinner With the Smileys, which has just been released in paperback. In it, the author chronicles a yearlong project of inviting guests to join her and her three sons, ages 4, 9 and 11, at a weekly dinner while her husband, a Navy pilot, was stationed overseas. Guests ranged from neighbors and teachers to politicians and professional athletes.
When we caught up with the author by phone, Smiley explained that in the beginning, she expected the book project would be a way of sharing what life is like for a military family when a parent is deployed. "But very quickly I realized the empty seat at the table is not unique to the military community,'' she said. "So it became (more about) how often we say we are going to invite someone to dinner and we don't, and how there are so many eating alone, and the value of sharing meals together.'' Smiley and her husband, Dustin, live in Maine with their three sons, Ford, Owen and Lindell.
What's on your nightstand?
I'm reading Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. It is good.
Who would you recommend it to?
I'd recommend it most especially to anyone who has spent time in Maine. The story is about parents and children, that bond. You know, that bond really gets me.
Speaking of children, do you think the year of weekly meals with guests changed the way your kids perceive cooking?
Not so much in the food process, although they like to joke that the subtitle should be "The Year of Red Sauce" because we had so much pasta. But it's definitely reshaped their view of what the whole dinner process means. They came to realize that a meal is one part nourishing their body, but it also is a part of being a member of the community. I think they definitely see dinnertime as a process and opportunity that goes beyond food now.
I also wanted to ask what cookbooks you'd turn to. Did you rely on a particular one?
I can't say I spent a lot of time worrying about recipes. I'm really not a cook. I'm not super invested in it, but when I am thinking of recipes, I love to look at A Taste of Home magazine.
Contact Piper Castillo at email@example.com or (727) 445-4163. Follow @Florida_PBJC.