Warm, welcoming meals begin with the table. That is where it all happens. Or does it?
It seems that the supersonic speed of today’s society is taking its toll on meal times.
Think back to the times of “Leave it to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best”. These television families spent a lot of time around the average kitchen table. It was here that they broke bread together, learned about everyone’s day and truly connected.
There are many fixtures that are found in the home, but none that are quite as important as the dinner table. It is a multi-functional magic place. It is here we are fed, nourished, and replenished from the demands of the day.
Finding a time when all of the family members can sit down together at the dinner table can be like working a Rubik’s Cube. Less than half of American families today eat dinner together, and when they do the meals last less than 20 minutes. Our lifestyles have changed from those less-complicated days. Thanks to the internet, cell phones, and palm pilots, business is conducted on an almost 24/7 basis. Outside activities for children have become almost unbearable in the demands made upon the family. It has become a race against time to fit it all in. Something has to give, and all too often it is the family dinner.
Does it matter whether today’s families eat dinner together?
Yes, it does. The family as an institution is under attack, and the adversary is working overtime to destroy individual families. All across the country families are falling apart. Many families are splintered by conflicting work schedules. Family mealtime is irregular, if at all, and microwave ovens and fast foods have robbed us of mealtime rituals.
When we squeeze out the family dinner we sacrifice more than you could ever imagine. According to studies conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, children who eat dinner with their families regularly are less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol than those who do not. Those who have two or less meals a week together are three times as likely to try marijuana, two and half times as likely to smoke cigarettes and one and half times as likely to try alcohol.
Children who grow up eating dinner with their families are simply better off than those who do not. They tend to get better grades, exhibit less stress and eat better. The gathering together also provides a comfort zone in this crazy world in which we live.
Once the family dinner table establishes itself as a friendly time for conversation, parents can insert discussions on “parenting topics” into the dinner table conversation. These topics include, drug abuse, smoking, drinking, fighting, academics, college, careers, peer pressure, dating relationships, parenting, sports, etc.
If you’re sharing a meal, you are most likely talking while you eat. Kids will often share things and talk casually while relaxing during dinner. It’s a time to unwind and discuss the day’s events. Use this time to check up on what’s going on in their lives, encourage them and compare schedules. Find out the latest classroom gossip or just what’s playing at the movies. The subject won’t matter as much as the fact that you are taking time to visit with one another.
Please remember that not just physical needs are met at the dinner table. Emotional and spiritual tendering also takes place there. Good meals at home satisfy emotional hungers as real as hunger in the belly, and nothing else does so in the same way. They promote affection and intimacy among those who share them. Characteristic, familiar styles of cooking, foods that ‘taste like home,’ are central to each home’s feelings of security and comfort. When a home gives up its hearth, which in the modern world is its kitchen, it gives up its focus. (The word ‘focus’ is Latin for ‘hearth.’) And the people who live there lose theirs too.
Counting our blessings over the table starts the celebration of the meal. It is a time to reflect upon life’s goodness, our lives and thanking God for what we are about to receive. At this time we should also remember those who don’t have enough to eat or even have a table. However you give thanks for the glories of the table, do it regularly and with sincerity. I know you will feel more connected to those you love ― and to the food you eat.
In summary, remember, the best way to bring back the family dinner is to make it a part of your daily routine. Strive to make dinner time the same time every evening and stick to it every possible time. Communicate with every family member that dinner will be served at a specified time and expect all to be present.
Ways to Gather Your Family for Dinner
• The time and effort spent in preparing satisfying and enjoyable meals is one of the best investments parents can make for their children. Reclaim the dinner hour, have regular, wholesome, and enjoyable meals together, and thus strengthen the family.
• Begin early as newlyweds and then later with young children to have regular pleasant meals together, so that dinner is an expected part of the family routine.
• Have a weekly planning meeting that includes putting dinner on the schedule. Be flexible in adjusting dinner time as needed.
• If eating dinner together is happening infrequently, hold a family meeting to evaluate the kinds and number of activities that are occupying family members at dinnertime. Enlist family members’ support to improve the situation. Strive for a better balance between the home and outside activities.
• Where appropriate, have various family members help cook and clean up. Being responsible for dinner’s success will invite greater commitment to it.
• Make dinnertime enjoyable with positive conversation, expressions of love, and moments of laughter. Don’t use dinnertime to resolve problems, to discipline or to remind children of assignments.
• Be careful what you bring to the table. Shut off all cell phones, tablets and even the television. Remember when families disconnect they connect.
• Prepare tasty food. There’s truth to the idea that “If you cook it well, they will come.”
• Think of eating out as an occasion, not as a habit. Home cooked meals in the privacy of your home are worth the time and effort.
View your dinner table as a place to spend precious time together, to reinforce family and spiritual values, and to express love to each other.
Great recipe to try as you are spending time around the table!
Asian Chicken or Shrimp Vegetable Noodle Salad
1/3-cup creamy peanut butter
1/4-cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons Asian Lime Ponzu sauce
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1-teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
2-teaspoons honey or agave nectar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2-cup chicken stock
3/4-pound Asian udon or buckwheat noodles, cooked and drained
2 boneless chicken breasts, grilled or baked, cut into strips OR 1 pound shrimp, cooked, peeled & deveined
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2-cup snap peas, cut in half
4 green onions chopped
1- cup red bell pepper, cut into matchstick size strips
1-cup fresh bean sprouts
1/2-cup fresh cilantro leaves, as needed
• Combine all Asian dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk together or blend in food processor until smooth.
• Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Blanch the snap peas, red pepper and bean sprouts by adding to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute and drain, rinse with cold water to cool quickly. Set a side.
• Cook the pasta noodles as directed; drain, rinse and cool. Put into a large bowl.
• Toss the noodles with 1/3 cup of Asian dressing. Add the prepared and blanched vegetables. Spoon on to a plate and garnish with the sliced chicken breast and cilantro.
• Bon Appetit!