My favorite time of the day is undoubtedly dinner time. That’s when I sit down, together with my family, to share a meal, a laugh, a cry, and at times a squabble.
Family meals are precious, indispensable and untouchable. They are about good food, nourishment, but also about helpful bonding.
Family meals are used to discuss daily events, school, work, ideas.
A sense of humor is required, good manners are requested, some culinary experimentation is necessary. Incidentally, I’m ferocious about no technology at the table.
No phones. No Ipads. No TV.
Family meals are chaos, they can turn in to a circus if not a zoo, but most of the times they are pure joy. Selected family members are more adventurous eater than others, but generally, as long as I don’t sneak in mushrooms, I get happy costumers, clean plates, and useful information about every ones life endeavors.
In the spirit of full disclosure, good manners are not always a guarantee, i.e. my son’s ability to burp the whole alphabet in one go and my daughter Houdini’s talent for making all her vegetables disappear and re-appear in the garbage; however, while Downton Abbey we are not, I do hope for resolution of the above malfunctions in the not so distant future.
Sharing meals has always been party of my upbringing and I’m holding to this tradition for dear life, because, I truly believe, connecting with my children and my husband, even if only for 20 minutes a day, it’s the key to a healthy family. To be clear, I’m not the only to believe in this.
The Family Dinner Project, a non profit organization dedicated to support families to come together and share their experiences and insights to help each other realize the benefits of family dinners has a phenomenal website loaded with evidence and studies supporting what parents have know for a long time:
“Sharing a fun family meal is good for the spirit, brain and health of all family members. Recent studies link regular family meals with the kinds of behaviors that parents want for their children: higher grade-point averages, resilience and self-esteem. Additionally, family meals are linked to lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders and depression. We also believe in the power of family dinners to nourish ethical thinking.”
Harvard Medical School professor and family therapist Dr. Anne Fishel, co-founder of the Family dinner Project, says research shows how children benefit from eating dinner together as a family at home: healthier eating habits, reduced obesity and stronger vocabulary skills as a result of dinnertime conversations.
I encourage you to visit The Family Dinner Project for some invaluable insights and I urge you to try adding some family dinners to your schedule, or breakfasts or suppers.
To make your life easier enlist family members to participate, cook together, set the table, and clean up. Kids love to peel, cut, mash, pick herbs, wash, rinse and squeeze. My husband is terrific at rearranging the dishwasher; you can read about power struggle and dishwashers in this recent WSJ article.
No need to over-complicate. The meals can be very simple. It takes 3 minutes to boil a 3 minute egg and 1 minute to wrap some prosciutto on bread sticks. 6 minutes to steam vegetables in the microwave. 30 seconds to scoop some ice cream in a bowl.
If you have 30 minutes check this fab recipes from the genius at Leite’s Culinaria, if you have 15 minutes follow this fun recipe for one pot pasta by Martha Stewart, if you have 45 minutes on a weekend make my lemon, sage fontina meat loaf, it’s divine. You can prep it, freeze it and pop it in the oven when you feel like having a treat. It makes great sandwiches the day after. If it’s cold outside, make my coconut, ginger squash soup. PBJ sandwiches are a cupboard away. In the end, if you panic email me, I’ll gladly share some ideas with you, together with my mother in law’s mom words of wisdom: Chi canta a tavola o a letto e’ un matto perfetto.