Kitchen Chatter

by Laura on August 6, 2009

in Blog

“What are we having?”

“Can I help?”

“No toys at the table!”

“Eat three bites, then you’ll be done.”

“I don’t like chicken.”

“Don’t’ play with your food.”

“I read this great article,” “Get back in your seat.” “Oh, I forgot what was I saying.”

These are some of the most frequent phrases spoken in our kitchen table every day. With four young kids, sometimes dinnertime conversation sounds like a series of commands – sit up straight, keep your hands off your sister, eat over the plate, blah, blah, blah.

But in between it all, something wonderful happens. We’re connecting. We’re bonding. We’re sharing. We are a family.

Last night, conversation focused on the juggler the kids saw at the summer afternoon series sponsored by the Mill Valley Friends of the Library

“He juggled fire and then he ate it!”  said Nicole.

“We don’t eat fire,” Addie informed us. “But we do eat dinner!’ she added with a smile.

“Then he sat on a tall unicycle and made a paper bird while the paper was on fire!” shared Grayson.

“Yeah, he ate fire,” confirmed Keely.

Some night’s conversations are better than others, but every night, we’re there, facing each other, interacting with each other, sharing with each other.

For all the good that has been said about the benefits of family meals, American’s are just not doing it. In Michael Pollan’s recent New York Times article Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch,” he speaks of a conversation he had with Harry Balzer of the NPD Group, who talks of the way Americans think about cooking. In a nutshell, Balzer says cooking is dead.

And with that, so is the family meal.

I, like Pollan, would like to think it isn’t. But, what it takes is a shift in the way we (by ‘we’ I mean Americans) think about the kitchen and mealtime. As Pollan says in the article “Cooking gave us not just the meal but also the occasion: the practice of eating together at an appointed time and place.”

If take-out and eating on the go are part of your daily routine, making the change to cooking and eating together will not happen over night. It will take some effort. It will take a shift in the way you live. But, if you give it a try – even once a week – you’ll soon understand what I’m talking about.

What we all need is a bit of perseverance. First time you sit down together, you may have a mutiny from the family (especially if the kids are in their teens and are not into sharing things with parents.)

Perseverance is what is needed. And that is what I remind myself on a daily basis. I wish our dinnertime would be much more calm, that everyone would like what I make, that once we sit down, the kids will keep their hands to themselves, not spill the milk, eat what’s on their plate and tell me something wonderful that happened in their day.

That is a dream. But the reality is, in between all that kitchen chatter, I find something much more satisfying . . . a connection with my family.

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