When friends learn about A Table In Time they ooze nostalgically for family dinners. Happy memories spill out, long buried beneath our techno-consciousness. Is it that sitting down face-to-face and enjoying conversation, even if only for a quick bite, seems rare these days?
Many of us ate dinner as a family night after night. Based only on anecdotal evidence it seems that regularly gathering for dinner is an activity of the past. Or, we might sit at the table but allow cell phones to hold sway and “high definition” TV’s to drone on about the day’s news. Maybe there’s not much “family” in these daily dining forays!
In the The New York Times article, “Is the Family Dinner Overrated?” [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]professors, Ann Meier and Kelly Musick, offer a hypothesis:
“Given that eating is universal and routine, family meals offer a natural opportunity for parental influence: there are few other contexts in family life that provide a regular window of focused time together… But our findings suggest that the effects of family dinners on children depend on the extent to which parents use the time to engage with their children and learn about their day-to-day lives.”
Not surprising, eating together is less about the meal and more about engaging with one another. Truly connecting over a meal creates positive long-term impact on our relationships and self-esteem. Engaging in conversation over a meal is not just for children. We all yearn for being heard!
It’s never too late for creating a daily dining ritual of conversation over a meal. Here are six steps to get started!
- Start with what you already know! Consider what you enjoyed most from favorite past gatherings. Make a list and decide what to incorporate into your own traditions. For example, in our family we always sat at a formal table. This tradition has stayed with me. I like a “set table” with cloth napkins; although I don’t worry if the napkins are un-ironed or match the placemats! Sometimes I light table candles as well.
- Determine the best time to eat together. Growing up we rarely ate before 7:00 pm because of my father’s long commute. Today my family rarely eats at the same time each night. This works for us. For others, a regular time might be better. Survey family members to determine what time works best. With friends pick a consistent calendar day, such as the last Friday of the month and plan gathering dates for the year.
- What to cook? “What” to prepare is usually more of a challenge than actually making the meal. Over the weekend, take a few minutes and pick one meal that you’d like to prepare. Shop for the ingredients, too. Keep the menu simple and fresh. Grill fish or meat, toss a green salad and sauté a vegetable. Done! If time allows, add in more complicated recipes and a homemade dessert. Pick up “take out” the next night. Toss pasta with a simple sauce for another evening.
- Relax! Pour yourself a tall glass of wine (or water or both) and enjoy the cooking after the busy day.
- At the table, express gratitude for family members and friends. Let each person share about his/her day. Ask a few thoughtful questions: for example, what was the best part of your day? Did anything funny happen? If so, what was it? What are you looking forward this week?
- Enlist the non-cooks for clearing the dishes and clean up. The
chef should be off duty after the meal.
Now is right for A Table In Time!
 “Is the Family Dinner Overrated?” by Ann Meier and Kelly Musick, The New York Times, Sunday Review; June 29th, 2012.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]