Journal

The Family Dinner

March 10, 2012

There is great meaning in the simple daily ritual of gathering together for an evening meal. My husband and I have fond childhood memories of eating together as a family. The days can be hectic so we make a point to slow down and enjoy one another in the evening. We have come to know a rhythm of preparing the meal, setting the table, reflecting upon our blessings, connecting, eating and cleaning up together.

Almost every Sunday we walk to the local farmer’s market and gather fresh seasonal and organic fruits, vegetables and herbs that will be used to prepare wholesome, nourishing meals throughout the week. We eat as close to the Earth as possible, limiting highly processed, genetically modified and artificially sweetened foods. Our meals are simple, yet flavorful.

Our older son takes part in the process by helping to soak beans, rinse vegetables and dry dishes. A personally cherished part of our mealtime tradition is setting a beautiful table. Sometimes the table is covered with one of my grandmother’s linens that have been passed down. Cloth napkins are set for each meal. Fresh flowers are displayed and seasonal touches are added such as pinecones and sprigs of lavender. A candle is lit to bring reverence as we all sit in one space together as a family.

We start the meal by holding hands and saying a blessing over our food. After the blessing is said we take a moment to be grateful for each other and the Earth from which our food comes. During the meal we exchange our thoughts, share experiences and things learned. We choose not to have adult conversation at the dinner table. The mood is relaxed, light and loving. We also do not watch television, answer the phone, check emails, texts or allow other intrusions during this sacred time. On Friday evenings, we welcome Shabbat (Sabbath) and add special candles, wine and challah (braided egg bread) to the meal and recite special blessings, sing songs and put coins in our tzedakah (charity) box.

Studies have also shown many benefits for families that eat together. Children are more likely to do well in their studies, have good social skills, eat more fruits and vegetables, build their vocabularies, and are less likely to engage in destructive behaviors, suffer from depression or develop eating disorders. Another study found that parents who put in long hours on the job reported less stress, strain and conflict if they were able to make it home in time for dinner.

Family meals cultivate warmth, security and a sense of belonging. May your meal time with your family be met with beauty, love and togetherness.

Image credit: Shorpy

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