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Talk of the Table

I remember long conversations at our family dinner table. We didn’t follow the “no politics, religion or money” rule of acceptable topics. Everything was up for debate. Lots of debate! Sure, we talked about school, friends and activities too. What I really remember was all of us sitting around the dinner table talking about anything and everything.

Little did I realize, but my parents were imparting so many lessons during our meals. Apart from niceties such as sitting up straight and how to hold a fork, we were learning how to negotiate, state our opinion and back it up. We searched for truth, recognized that not all opinions will be the ones we share and that differences are important too. Sounds heavy but it wasn’t. It was part of our day-to-day experience. And it all centered around the family dinner table.

It’s National Family Meals Month™, a time to recognize and celebrate the value of family meals. Part of our mission at DinnerTime is to help families come together more often around the dinner table. As we share healthy meals, we are sharing so much more.

Tips for conversation:

  1. Don’t wait to sit at the table to engage in conversation. Prepping and clean-up times can be great opportunities to open up channels of communication.
  2. Create your own family conversation rituals. For example, in some families, each person shares the best and the worst thing that happened that day.
  3. Allow conversation to flow so your kids feel comfortable opening up about difficult subjects.
  4. Conversation starters can be everything from what did you learn today to what animal would you be and why. Try to ask open-ended questions that require more than a one word answer. Check out these fun starters from The Family Dinner Project.

What are your favorite memories about mealtimes? I did a little survey with my friends and loved hearing their responses. We ended up talking about so many aspects of mealtime…connections…love of cooking…special lessons.
The more I listened the more it became clear how important making meals and eating meals together is to all of us. Here are a few snippets of my favorite responses.

The Lessons Learned:

Suzanne: My Grandmomma and I used to make pies together…well any dessert! Pie making was my favorite. As Grandmomma and I cut up apples, pitted just picked tart cherries or rinsed fresh berries, she would tell me stories about her mother and grandmother. I loved hearing about how they lived, what school was like for them, who they dated. She made them come alive for me. Plus, I make the best pies!

Ted: My jobs were to set the table and clean up the dishes. After I finished setting the table I would sit on our kitchen stool and chat with Mom about our day. She would tell me about what went on at her work and I would fill her in on my day at school. Later in life, I realized we had similar issues of how to do better, solve problems and get along with others. Mom wove those lessons of how to navigate daily life with her own experiences. That mom of mine is pretty smart!

Jules. My Dad was the cook in the family. He was a math teacher and precision was his thing. He made us help him cut all the veggies precisely the same size and lay out all our ingredients before we started cooking. But when Dad cooked, he allowed himself to get a little crazy! When it came time to assemble the actual recipe, he loved trying more of something like doubling the basil or cooking at a higher temperature to see if the ingredient would caramelize. He made copious notes in his recipe books about the results. In his own way he was running a nightly experiment to find the best recipes. I loved that he was willing to try to improve a recipe over and over until he thought it was top notch. He made cooking fun and interesting.

Christina. I learned to cook at my mother’s elbow. She taught me how to make authentic Mexican food like she learned from her mom in Mexico. I learned there were different styles of Mexican cooking depending upon region and income. Mexican food in this country is richer and cheesier than authentic Mexican dishes, but we made those recipes too. I appreciate that Mom made sure I knew my Mexican roots.

Tommy: My family was an active family but mom insisted we all be home for dinner. Dinner conversation was the normal…”what happened at school today” stuff. Sometimes it took a downturn and erupted in bickering between the kids. My dad started an end-of-meal policy of leaving the table with a smile. Not always an easy task with surly teenagers, but he had a magic act! It’s called Electricity. Swear to you, it will make you smile and probably laugh. Everyone had to hold hands and then Dad would start shaking his arms and saying ELECTRICITY! His voice would get louder and louder and his hands and arms would shake more and more until it seemed like he was sending electricity through all of us. It felt like he did, but the best was watching him get all excited and red in the face as he channeled his own form of electric spirit. It was and still is magical to share electricity with him. I can’t wait to do the same one day when I have kids.

We would love to hear your favorite mealtime memories! Share them with us at feedback@dinnertime.com.

Recipes to make together!

Find more delightful recipes in your DinnerTime Recipe Box.
You can search for an ingredient (e.g. eggplant, etc) the name or part of the name of a recipe (lasagna), a cuisine (Italian), type of dish (e.g. soup), an occasion (Thanksgiving, breakfast, tailgating, etc).

A slow-cooker recipe your family will love.

Loaded with healthy veggies!

Healthy and hearty!