Making time, not just meals!

I can’t help wondering if the growing trend for lap suppers is having a detrimental effect on the importance of mealtimes?

When I was small, from as early as I can remember, family mealtimes were sacred. During the week, as my father always left for work very early, my brother and I would eat breakfast together while my mother made the packed lunches we’d take to school. Even then, it was a social start to the day with constant chatter and good natured squabbling. But evening meals were always a family affair. We had to help set or clear the table and the house rule was that there could be no arguments – only discussions and conversation! It was all about sitting around table, sharing our experiences of the day and, I suppose subconsciously, learning to listen and engage with each other. I never questioned it and it formed the beginning of my love for food and my understanding of how much the enjoyment of it is influenced by who we are with and where we are.

I fear that the busier our lives become and the less time we devote to the importance of family mealtimes, then we will have a huge number of young people who will grow up never having experienced the joy of it. I read an article some time ago that stated 1 in 5 households don’t even have a dining table! I’m sure you are also all aware of the comments being aimed at the current glut of television programs showing us how to cook all manner of wonderful food that we apparently watch from our sofas while enjoying a takeaway! In fact, before my children were even in their teens, it was a struggle to get them to have breakfast at all before school, let alone together, and for quite some time it was impossible to sit at the table as a family without huge arguments. The smallest thing could set it off. It was a really unsettling phase! I have to admit that at one point I resorted to TV meals in the evening as a way to remove the focus from each other and make sure that they all ate a proper plate of food, but it went against all of my instincts to give in like that and I struggled with it.

However, to my huge relief, much of what I tried to instill in my children has endured! Now all in their 20’s, they love sitting around a table enjoying food with family and friends. They’re all enthusiastic cooks, keen to share ideas and experiences with us, something that makes me extraordinarily happy!

But, of course, it’s not just about families. There are plenty of couples out there and more and more mixed households with several young adults or friends sharing communal living spaces where it’s just as important to create opportunities when possible, but even if it’s just once a week, to prepare and enjoy a meal together. It doesn’t have to be extravagant either, beans on toast or pasta with a simple sauce is just as good. You simply can’t properly engage with someone if you’re both staring at the TV, so face each other around the table, breakfast bar, coffee table or just cross legged on the floor and share your day with one another. You’ll be amazed how much better the food tastes!

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