How many times have you sat down with your family for a meal in the past year? How about the past month? Week? Whatever your answer would be, you may or may not fall into the 71% of US families that still eat dinner together (according to a study conducted on behalf of Welch's Kitchen Table Report).
I don’t get to sit down with my family for a meal as often as I would like. Due to work schedules, school schedules or any other appointments, getting the family together is not as easy as it was in the past for me. When I was younger, my parents were always home for dinner. Sometimes my father would stroll in just as we sat down to eat and I remember waiting until he was washed up and ready before I ate anything. Now, my own children are doing there homework and getting washed up for dinner and my parents are still there eating with them. You see, I had to leave before dinner was served to meet with clients and my wife was still at here meetings and wouldn’t be getting home until it was almost bed time, so we call in reinforcements to help with the children. This is a trend I see very often when I take the kids to school. The grandparents are dropping the kids off and picking them up. Both parents have to work. I’m not going to get into the job markets, recession, wars, politics or anything like that. There is no single person to blame for the rising costs of anything. I digress.
What I love about family sit down meals (whenever I do get one) is the laughter of the kids, the smiles on my wife’s face and sometimes the look on my parents faces when they hear what my kids say. Then they turn to me and say “Gee that sounds familiar”. For the record I have no idea what they are talking about when they say that. But, when my parents are there, they get to tell stories of a time forgotten by most but adored by their grandchildren. Sometimes at my expense, but that’s for another day. I know its going to be a great meal when I hear my mother say “I remember the time when…” and proceed with a story of what our family did years ago. I don’t have a large family, but we were fun. I had a Chinese grandfather, Puerto Rican Grandmother and thats my mom’s side coupled with the Italian, Irish, White folk from my father’s side. Holidays were always interesting around my house to say the least. It gets even more interesting when the Aunts and uncles show up. This is when you get the stories about your parents that they never wanted to tell you. What they did when they were younger, sometimes of questionable legality, or even just where they came from.
For a child, hearing tales of the old days is reassuring and educational. Some never stop learning from their parents or even grandparents. Family meal time is that moment where you can share stories with your children or your spouse if you don’t have children. It is a time of reflection and understanding. How can we know about who we are and where we came from if not for those willing to tell the stories? It might even explain why you feel a certain way at times as well as looking a certain way at times. For some, you learn how truly bizarre your history is and how it can shape your future.
Food does this for us. It provides a means to learn and grow, not just sustenance for living. It is full of information about you and your family that you can’t get in any restaurant or book. Mom’s chicken soup always made you feel better. Dad’s burnt hamburger attempts made you always appreciate your mother. This is the family sit down meal. This is family!