It all began with one question: “What is the main element needed in getting the family around the table?”
The response has been overwhelming.
One lazy afternoon, Greg posted the question on LinkedIn. Immediately, the responses began to pour in.
Words like togetherness, values, table talk, great food, routine, time, commitment, priorities, no television, conversation, healthy home cooked meals, oh, did I say NO TV (a very common response), all appeared time and again.
Coincidentally, Chef Mick of Tony’s Markets in Colorado was thinking the same thing we were. His latest post reads:
“The time we spend together at the table is precious and priceless; it’s often our only chance to slow down and savor our lives and family. But how do we get everybody’s feet under the table at the same time?
Get thyself into the kitchen and fill those pots with love! Warming your home and hearth with special dishes several times each week is the first step – then take the time to ask, listen and understand those you love. With a comforting meal and an open heart (and no television), you can begin a suppertime habit that will nurture your family for generations!”
Chef Mick and the Everage family are on the same page. It takes a commitment to get the family around the table, but it also takes a commitment to “filling those pots with love.”
Research has revealed that families who eat together have better nutrition, and in turn, have a lower risk of many diseases, including being overweight or obese. This is not a new concept. A decades-old study conducted by Harvard researchers and published in the Archives of Family Medicine, found families who reported eating together ‘almost every day’ took in more healthy nutrients including calcium fiber, iron, and vitamins. Another study also indicated that children who ate meals together with the family ate more fruits and veggies than those who did not. Other benefits of getting around the family table, is that kids do better in school and are less likely to take drugs.
Think about it, the family meal is a great time to check in with family members, and to engage everyone in discussion.
The key to making it all happen is establishing a routine. A routine to create family togetherness is essential, and research supports the idea that cooking and eating at home will have a positive effect on the health of the body and the health of the family. Here are a few thoughts from those who commented on the question. We hope you will find inspiration for creating the time, and the routine, of the family meal. What could be better than a tradition that nurtures the body, the soul and the family unit?
Responses from our question:
- I grew up with parents who deeply respected the many values of food. Not just eating the food, but the knowledge about how it was produced, and the love and care with which it was prepared for us. Most of all was the emphasis on the fact that the nicest moment of the day when a family gathers, is for a meal. I looked forward to a simple, but delicious dish and a nice conversation — to a table that was decorated; to the pleasure of lots of friends and family who were always welcome. Food has always been an important tool for communication. This formula still works with my children.
- My parents took a genuine interest in the lives of their children. “Table talk” was always focused on what each of us – parents and kids – had done that day as well as our plans for the week. We all had input into holiday plans, too. Similarly, the kids helped prepare the meals – my friends might have had an Easy-Bake Oven, but I got to work with the real deal! A favorite family outing was berry picking – and helping Mom make the pies and jams those berries produced. So, a lot of our family activity centered around the acquiring and preparing of good, wholesome food. Dinner wasn’t a chore, rather it was an event that nobody wanted to miss.
- Commitment and establishing a routine…. and great food.
- I truly believe that LOVE among all the family members is what makes any food time a delicious meal. Being able to share happiness, laughs, conversations, jokes, and a delicious dish prepared for my mom with the greatest ingredients (love, patience, dedication and respect), are the key factors to enjoy that special moment. In my family, it was always a pleasure to get together around the table for meal.
- I believe it is attitude, truth & harmony that bring a family to gather around the table and to be merry.
- In my part of the world (Denmark), the changing of family values has been an issue for quite some time. I guess change will always be a topic of discussion between generations. I find that by having traditions and “rules” around the family meals you can create a focal point that strengthens the family ties, gives the kids a place to come back to and the parents a chance to “meet”. In my opinion, turning off the television would help a lot of people get off to a good start and then when you get to the table, holding hands for a moment would help us all to reconnect.
- I see the silent grace before my meals not so much as a prayer, , but as a quieting of the noise and a refocusing on the meal and all that went into it — and will come of it.
- By and large we modern folk don’t stop our hectic lives for much – people don’t stop talking, doing all day long. We even fall asleep with the TV on. To stop for a moment and to still oneself before a meal is something powerful. It is not easy to do. One hops up to get the salt, a serving spoon, a napkin. One forgets a pot on the stove. The phone rings. Sometimes I forget if we already held hands. Kids can’t wait and dig in. The TV might be on. At last there is stillness. Even the noise of a restaurant falls away. The food comes alive at this moment, as does conversation. Children are better behaved as the family or diner’s attention is focused on each other, on being together.
- My husband and I have four children, closely spaced, and having family dinner has always been a priority for us. We both work full time, so coming home and cooking took some energy. But the hardest thing was juggling 4 kids and their after-school activities. How I hated it when baseball practice would run over into our dinner hour! But, generally speaking we still made it work. Now that our kids are growing up, it is even more delightful when they come home, and actually enjoy spending more time around the dinner table.
- Making it a priority over all other activities. Not “sacrificing” the family for sports, music or money. Once the time is lost, it can never be regained. The results can be devastating on children. Meals don’t have to be fancy, simply healthy and served with love.
- In my own life, with 2 kids and just me and living away from my family, I have found it hard to keep the family table going, especially as the kids hit their teenage years. But, I continue to cook for them and we try to sit down together almost every night. One of my daughter’s friends likes to come to our house at mealtime, because her parents don’t cook. Even something as simple as a bowl of soup, she’ll always say yes, when I offer it.
- A parent with a good listening ear and no TVs on. Homemade food made with lots of love in it also helps to bring ’em in. The precious few moments of a shared home cooked meal. About 7 years ago we started “fun fam friday night pizza” or FFP. We make our own pizza dough, and have fun creating New York Style, or Chicago Style Pizza. We have cherished this fun time. Life goes by so fast with kids, so enjoy making traditions. Once they hit high school, the time flies by, and you will miss those moments.
Conversation. Healthy home cooked meals prepared with love and shared with thoughts and commentary on the day’s events – definitely without television.
My favorite way to share time with family & friends is, and always has been, around a dinner table.
- One of my favourite subjects! So many families in the UK do not see family meals as a priority – and many don’t even have a table – whereas in Spain (where I live) families sit around the table for hours at mealtimes. Good, simple food, children joining in with Cooking, Conversation and Cleaning up….and NO TV!
- Although written in 2006, I think this article in TIME titled “The Magic of the Family Meal” is germane to this conversation: Time!
We’ll leave it at that – Gather, Converse, Eat Well and Love!