My mom is an excellent cook. So some of my best memories
growing up are associated with food and the meals at which
that food was shared.
For my mom, cooking is her way of showing how much she cares.
After each of my childrens births, my mom and dad would
show up at dinnertimefood in handto share a meal
with my husband, Mark, and me, then clean up and be out the
This visit, though simple, meant the world to Mark and me.
It gave us good nourishment and good companynot to mention
one less thing to worry aboutduring a rather hectic
and exhausting time.
Benefits of Family Meals
A number of studies have shown that children whose families
regularly eat meals together eat more healthful foods and
are less likely to engage in behaviors such as smoking, doing
drugs or drinking alcohol.
Families that eat meals together regularly also have better
communication. Meals are a time when members of a family can
bring up topics of interest, concerns or questions. Some of
the best family stories Ive ever heard were told around
a dinner table.
Of course thats not to say that all meals are without
their struggles. Some nights Im tempted to take my food
and go eat in a closet. I must constantly remind myself that
despite my nightly mantras of Use your fork, Dont
aggravate your brother and Im not going
to tell you how many bites you have to eat, just eat,
the important thing is that we are spending time together
as a family.
Together on a Deeper Level
Gathering together to share food and companionship is not
just something we do as a family within the confines of our
homes. It is also an integral part of our faith.
Each week at Mass we come together to celebrate and break
bread. Many of Jesus miracles centered around food and
celebration, such as the Wedding at Cana and the multiplication
of the loaves and fishes. Jesus even chose the setting of
a supper to commemorate his last evening with his friends
before his death.
Eating meals together can be a wonderful expression of love
and companionship. Here are some ideas to keep your family
gathering at the table:
If for some reason your family cant seem to arrange
your schedules to have dinner together, switch the family
meal to either breakfast or lunch. If thats not possible,
try to schedule at least one or two nights a week to have
dinner as a family. The important thing is to take the time
to be together.
Draw up a weekly schedule and assign each person a night.
Have that person pick what he or she would like for dinner
that evening and then invite that person to help prepare the
In the best of all worlds, families would sit down
every night to a home-cooked meal. The reality of two-income
families, school, friends and extracurricular activities doesnt
always make that possible, though. Remember that its
the time spent together thats important. So even if
you dont have time to prepare a meal, a delivered pizza
is more delicious when you all share it together.
Eliminate distractions during dinner. My daughter,
Madison, repeatedly asks if she can eat her dinner in the
family room so she can watch cartoons. To combat this nightly
fight, weve started turning the television off before
dinner is ready to be served. Likewise, let the answering
machine pick up any phone calls. If its important enough,
the caller will leave a message.
Continue family traditions by making meals that have been
passed down through your family over the years. Recently,
my mom spent an afternoon teaching me how to make one of my
grandmas recipes using the same utensils and pots my
grandma had used.
Begin each meal with a prayer. You can either use the traditional
mealtime prayer or create your own. After the prayer, ask
each family member to offer one thing or person for which
they would like to pray or express thanks.
Create a family cookbook. Collect favorite family recipes
and gather them in a cookbook. If they are handwritten, make
copies or scan them into your computer and print them out.
Give a copy of the cookbook to members of the family as a
keepsake. Or give one as a gift for someone just entering
the family, such as a new bride or groom.
Next Month: The Advent Wreath