Nothing eats away at a family’s mealtime together like children’s sports. Everywhere parents hustle from practices to games — often one season merging into the next without a break — all the while hoping their kids will grab a bite while tugging on their uniforms.
The Malpiedes and the Lynches of Needham, Massachusetts, know about the tug and pull of balancing kids’ sports with family time. With seven young boys ages 7 to 16 between them, John and Marjorie Malpiede and Chris and Maria Elena Lynch often found themselves huddled on the sidelines and stands next to each other. Chris, a lacrosse coach, was often on the field, as well. Talk of hockey, baseball, and lacrosse quickly turned to the two couples’ other favorite subject: food and wine. Soon the families created their own pastime: planning meals together that coincided with their sons’ sports lives.
“We often rely upon one another to get the boys to a game or a practice when our schedules overlap,” says Marjorie, “and at the end of the day, we all end up at the same house relaxing and cooking.”
Most of the time, the meals are impromptu. “The boys are really good about being adventurous with food,” says John. “But we try and do simple dinners that all of us will like. If it gets too complicated or time-consuming, the boys, who are very hungry, get antsy — and you really don’t want seven hungry boys waiting for a meal. That’s just asking for trouble!”
The two couples take turns hosting. “I love having people in the house, and while we definitely have grown-up dinner parties, the reality is that most of our entertaining is for the 16-and-under set,” says Marjorie. John designed their kitchen with a large granite island (18 by 4 feet), offering plenty of room for preparation and for family and visitors to pull up chairs. “Whoever’s cooking isn’t separated from the rest of the group,” says John. “I can talk and be with everyone while making any meal. The kids like to watch and participate, and this design really lets that happen.”
John’s cooking is mostly of a Mediterranean bent, while Maria Elena turns to her native Peru for inspiration. “It’s the food I grew up on, so I know it well,” she says. “I want to be sure my boys know about it, too, plus it’s delicious.”
The men share an interest in wine and have dedicated cellars in their homes. “We definitely enjoy our wine,” explains Chris, “but we don’t go over the top with our collections or get too worried about what to serve and when. Both John and I open what we want when we want.”
As for the seven hungry young athletes, they’re clearly interested in the food and the cooking, but their real goal is to eat. And they do, with gusto.