This post is from KS contributing writer Haley Stewart of Carrots for Michaelmas
The Drive to Do It Faster
As I scroll through Pinterest, so many images are about what’s on the dinner table. How to make healthy meals. How to make quick and easy meals. How to make 20 meals in one afternoon.
And I find my eyes drawn to all of them, because life is busy! Who wouldn’t want to prepare food more quickly and get dinner on the table faster? My to-do list is full. Actually, it’s overflowing.
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And during seasons of survival mode, if I can get anything healthy on the table at all, I feel like I deserve a medal. But as we’re crawling out of survival mode (my youngest is one now, so it’s about time to emerge from under that newborn rock!), I’m remembering what was lost when we rushed our life around the table. We live in a fast food world of microwaveable meals. Stopping to “waste” not just one hour for a meal, but three or four hours prepping, cooking, and savoring is difficult as we try to keep up with the speed of life.
But dinnertime is about much more than cramming wholesome calories into our families (although that’s a worthy goal!). It’s not just about consuming the “right” things, it’s about savoring the ingredients, process, and connections. It’s about slowing down to treat food and relationships with joy.
What We Lose in the Scramble
The other night we planned a good meal, started prepping it, and called a couple of friends to join us. We talked in the kitchen while my husband (far more culinarily-inclined than I) began cooking and the scents of spices wafted around the house.
We sat down and ate a beautiful meal. Took a break for the kids’ bedtime and then plopped onto the couches with glasses of wine and bowls of ice cream to talk for another couple of hours. And it reminded me why life around the table is something sacred.
One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving. And not because I like the food more than everyday fare. In fact, many of the traditional foods are not my favorite. But I love what Thanksgiving traditions bring to our family culture. I love revisiting the memories of making pies with my dad and all the laughter in the kitchen. It’s the process that’s fun, not just the consumption.
And that’s why I love life around the table. Not because it needs to be some sort of fancy production. It doesn’t. People are physical and spiritual beings and the table is one place where those spheres intersect and our bodies and souls get fed.
Why make slow dinners a priority?
There are all kinds of motivating benefits to slowing down to eat family dinners. For children, eating together as a family decreases the risk of developing an eating disorder, promotes healthier eating, and kids who eat with their families even have better success in school.
We need nourishing food, but we need more than that. And when our family slows down to experience a meal together, I remember how sweet it is to feed our souls and relationships.
But We’re Too Busy!
Everyone is going a hundred miles an hour to this activity and that: extracurriculars, tutoring, sports. And then tack on a move, a new baby, an illness and you can kiss luxurious long dinners and sitting around the table to chat goodbye.
Stopping to cook and eat together takes time. The whole process could take hours. Hours we say we don’t have anymore.
But the truth is, we have time for things that we care about. In fact, the average American over two years old watches 40 hours of television a week. 40 hours. That’s a full time job! We don’t watch much TV but we still fill up our hours. And when we don’t have time to cook, eat, and connect, that’s when we realize we are too busy and need to cut back.
How does a busy family prioritize slow meals?
Setting apart sacred time around the table takes work. Here are some ideas for making it happen:
- Saying no to some evening activities so that you can say yes to family dinner.
- Starting a little garden to connect your family to your food (even just growing some herbs on your window sill can make the cooking process so much more fun!).
- Get the kids involved in the preparation.
- Beginning prep a little bit earlier so that there’s time to talk and connect after the plates are cleaned and tummies are full.
- Stopping to set the table.
Family mealtime will definitely mean slowing down, taking a breath and enjoying the process. It won’t be perfect, and at our house with tiny children underfoot it certainly won’t be quiet or idyllic! Usually our meal prep is complete with an emotional toddler meltdown, conflicts with a 5-yo who doesn’t want to clean up the LEGO masterpieces all over the table, a tired, fussy baby and eager “helpers” who make meal prep a challenge (and a joy). But that’s what makes it life.
These days meal prep is more hurried because babies need to get to bed and lounging around the table is replaced by brushing toddler teeth and reading bedtime stories. But we can still make an effort to slow down and savor the food and the relationships, even just by pouring a glass of wine and washing the dishes together after the kids go to sleep.
So make an effort to reinvigorate or begin time in the kitchen and around the table with your family. You can just start with one night a week! Slow down. Breathe, chop, smell, taste. Make the table the center. And enjoy the company of the amazing people sitting there with you!
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