Part 2 in a 3-Part Series on Dining
We’re a world of eating fast, eating on the run, eating poorly, eating at our desks, eating standing up, by ourselves or often when we do grab a bite with others, we are on our phones texting someone about the next meet up. That, in itself, is the same as — if not worse — than eating alone. As Cody C. Delastraty from The Atlantic points out, “Eating alone can be alienating. The dinner table can act as a unifier, a place of community. Sharing a meal is an excuse to catch up and talk, one of the few times where people are happy to put aside their work and take time out of their day.”
And that is an, “Ah, HA!” moment we thought we’d share.
Back in 2015, the Washington Post did an article claiming “The most important things you can do with your kids? Eat dinner with them.” And why pray tell, is that? I’ve got a story for you. Shocking, I know.
My mom took a songwriting class when I was in 8th grade. That was cool. And it was new. My mom cooked our dinner every night — very old school, I know, but true. We had always been a family who gathered around the dinner table for our meals, no matter what and my dad expected that to continue uninterrupted. So, I cooked for him and my brother — my older sis was off doing the college thing — and, at first, it was a lot of Hamburger Helper and boxed stuff. I was 13, people. Cut me some slack. Then after about three weeks, I began experimenting with my mom’s cookbooks, stuff I saw Julia Child and Graham Kerr prepare on television, and the meals got more like my mom’s, but that really wasn’t the point. Dining together as a family — even just the three of us some nights — made it possible for us to decompress and keep knowing each other. We’d eat, talk, share our days and go from there. We kept up the rhythm of what my parents had both started for us from my earliest memory — that eating around the table which included no phone calls allowed between 6 and 8 while we talked about our day as we broke bread together.
All of that made it possible to face our days and when my mom was home from class, she could relax knowing we were continuing our tradition and her pursuing more in her life wasn’t causing us to disconnect. Not only that, it maintained our healthy eating by having a real sit-down meal, kept our minds alert and engaged and helped us communicate with each other which, in turn, made it easier for us to socialize with others.
Wild, isn’t it?
There are tons of studies around family meal times and their benefits. Whole websites like thefamilydinnerproject.org and its blog are devoted to not only why but how to make the most of those times together. Among those benefits are happier kids, less social and emotional issues, higher achievement at school, healthier meals, better spousal relationships and saving money. And, yes, we know that many people find cooking a huge chore, but meal services that make it possible to follow simple step-by-step instructions to create a healthy, yummy dinner for the fam not only help alleviate that but allows families to cook together as a team. Kids, spouses, or significant others in the kitchen can be really fun and open up even more opportunities for conversations. I used to teach my kids cooking on Sundays and the stuff I’d discover about their world was far more satisfying than the fact that my then 7-year-old son mastered crepe making on his first try when it took me three times at cooking school — which, ya know, isn’t what this is about anyways, so let’s move on.
Breaking bread with those people you love, taking the time to keep in tune with what they’re doing, who they are and sharing that about yourself, is a way to keep that connection alive through all the days, weeks, months and years of your lives. I know it’s hard sometimes to get that time together. My sons have their own lives and it’s vital for us to spend time over a meal, kicking it, being there for each other whenever we can. It’s not always at home but it is focused, no digital distractions allowed and letting each other in. It helps me sleep better knowing we’re in each other’s lives that way, that we sit at a table with food we love. And for those moments, hours, whatever, that we’re completely there together, it’s like a dream come true.