I picked up a cookbook (of sorts) at the library last week, The Family Dinner by Laurie David, and it’s stirring something inside of me. It’s not the recipes that are blowing me away (although I’m excited to try a few), but the whole philosophy on which the book was built. The importance of the family dinner. How simply sitting down and enjoying a real food meal together on a regular basis can have such a positive impact on a family.
The first chapter is entitled “Why Family Dinners Matter” and discusses how Americans have lost touch with the concept of dining together and misplaced their priorities insomuch that the family dinner is a trite afterthought that happens only on occasion rather than every day. Busy schedules and a plugged-in world have taken over the dinner table and what was once a place for families to converge and connect has become more of a place to eat take-out in between sports practices and meetings.
There is just no time for dinner anymore.
“People say they don’t have time to cook, yet in the last few years we have found an extra two hours a day for the Internet.” -Michael Pollen, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma
David talks about all the great benefits that come from an established family dinner. Kids who eat meals with their family regularly are more likely to be healthy eaters, have better manners, and feel more secure than their peers who do not. A home that has a family dinner every night is a home where kids will want to be. Solid memories are formed around a dinner table where food is celebrated and enjoyed.
While this trend away from eating meals together as a family may be new, it isn’t new to me. With parents who were restaurant owners, I didn’t grow up with a traditional family dinner every night. Working well past dinner time most nights, the kids’ dinners involved either take out (from our restaurant) or something frozen or from a box or can that my brothers or I could prepare.
Sundays, however, were different. Sundays were our family dinner day, and you dare not miss it. I have great memories of Sunday dinners and the meals my parents took the time (sometimes all day!) to prepare. It was on those priceless Sundays that I snuck my nose in the kitchen to see what my dad was cooking and learned little culinary tidbits. It was on those priceless Sundays that my mom and I would set the dining room table together: talking, laughing, connecting.
I longed to have Sundays dinners every night, which may be partly why establishing a nightly dinner time with my family is so important to me. Children yearn to have a solid family life, and family dinners can play a significant role in creating that stable feeling. According to the author, 67% of teens in America want to have more time with their parents. How about 45 minutes a night at the dinner table?
Right now, having a family dinner is easy for me. My daughter is two with no place else to be. But you can be sure that as she grows older the pattern we are establishing now is going to stick. Meals will be a time to celebrate and appreciate the food we are blessed with, connect as a family, and take a time-out from our over-scheduled, hectic lives.
What about you? What does your family dinner look like? Did you have a family dinner growing up? Is it important to you?