The family dinner has long been a tradition in most households of every town in every state, province, or district in literally every country around the world. Whether it's an elaborate five-course meal served on holidays with the finest linens, silver, and crystal or a simple meal of beans and tortillas around a makeshift table, the family meal has nourished the body and the soul for two millenniums now. It's a time that is marked by families of all sorts gathering to eat, connect, banter, and sometimes bare their souls to one another.
Although my family's meals have been more of the bean and tortilla variety, they have resembled royalty in the results they have produced over the years. I felt early on as a young mother that the dinnertime meal was important for the bonding of family and so most evenings I insisted on all five of us sharing that meal together. Because of daily work, school, and social engagements it was, and still is today, hard to find a time that is better than the evening where the whole family can set aside one meal to eat together. Most times everyone is home from the day's activities and, in my opinion (be it ever so humble), there is absolutely no excuse to not have supper together on a somewhat regular basis. Sure, I know there are exceptions to even that rule of thumb, but if you're too busy to set aside time to eat together in the evening at least most of the week, then you're TOO busy! There has been research to show that the family meal is one of the best (and easiest) ways to give kids a good foundation in life, family, and self-confidence and, believe me, our kids need it more today than ever before. I truly believe that having family dinner around the table as my children were coming up has been a huge component in the beliefs they've formed about good nutrition, family values, and gratefulness. My artist daughter has even grown her business around the benefits of the family dinner and how family dinner inspired some of the stunning eating, drinking, and serving pieces she creates. It blesses my heart to hear her sweet memories of the meals her grandfather cooked when he visited and the impression they made on her as a young girl. My nurse daughter is a great believer in making sure her little family is well-fed and gathered together for every meal possible. She has used it as a tool to teach little P gratefulness for all she has and mindfulness of those who have so little. My girls have also taught me (much to my embarrassment sometimes) that just because you CAN eat out doesn't mean you SHOULD eat out. A home cooked meal is not only better for the body, it has all kinds of elements within it that gives health to the inner being as well. My son and his wife also make it a priority for their family to eat together in the evening and it has been around their table that my other two precious grandchildren have learned about life and family, and how to say a prayer that will truly bring a tear to your eye.
It's harder than ever now to find a time when my entire family (me, the hubs, three children, three significant others, and three grandchildren) can eat together. Everyone is all spread out and, even when they are in town, it's very seldom all of them are in town at the same time. But no matter who is here and no matter how short the visit, we always make it a point to gather around the table and break bread as a family. Since Hollie has been back in the states, I've lost count of the meals we've had together and while Abbie has been in town we've had dinner together every night. Tonight dinner is at our place and I am serving one of our favorites...spaghetti with salad and garlic bread; such a simple meal but everyone loves it! We don't wait till everyone is in town because we might be waiting a long time so we take every opportunity we have for celebrating this tradition in our family, and every single experience is a blessing we don't soon forget. I enjoy cooking more than ever with my girls now, maybe because they are such wonderful cooks (and I've learned so much!), and we have great times in the kitchen chopping, stirring, sautéing and serving what we've cooked and then sharing in the consuming of it! This week we've had stuffed peppers with turkey and beans and asparagus, some of the best green salads and fruit salads I've ever had, spinach quiche, all kinds of home-grown veggies, and Honduran chicken soup. I feel healthier just thinking about all the good food I've had!
We live in a society where fast-food has become the norm. I for one am the guiltiest of opting for fast food more times than I should because, well, it's fast and it's food! I can't deny that I love fast food; I just shouldn't love it so much. I grew up with it and had the false perception that it was real food (and sometimes it is, but most times it's void of the content of wholesome ingredients and daily nutrients needed). But I've never regretted a meal that I've lovingly cooked or that someone else has cooked and I've received; there's just nothing better. But if you are like me, the joy of preparing a meal is greater when shared with family or friends. I think more than anything -- more than the location, more than the circumstances surrounding a meal, more than the food itself, it's the "being" with people as you share what is a fundamental need of life -- to be nourished and to feel loved. There's just something about food and its magical ability to bring people together. Meal-time is the perfect time to connect, reconnect, and bring relationships to new levels. If you don't have family, do it with friends! Many friends have been made over a meal. Many problems have been solved over a meal. And, yes, even bad news has been given over a meal but, either way, people always connect over food. People enjoy eating together in the soft lighting of the most elaborately-decorated restaurant indulging on caviar and pheasant under glass and drinking the finest wines, but a meal of sandwiches and fruit on a blanket under the shade of a large oak tree is just as memorable and folks gather around the small kitchen table where mom has cooked all day and seasoned it with salt, pepper, spices, and a lots of love. And when it's accompanied by good conversation and gratefulness, a memory is made that sticks.
As for me? Give me a big ol' bowl of homemade spaghetti and a preschooler slurping noodles, and I am smack-dab in the middle of my happy place!
Wishing you that same happiness and many meaningful meals together...
Posted by CC
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