Dinner Rituals and Reflections
As I minced the basil and tomatoes fixing to toss them in the mix of squash and mushrooms sautéing on the stove, I began to ponder the many rituals of dinner. Dinner was and is my favorite meal as this is the time when the family crawls in from their weary day ready to chat and laugh and eat. Well, at least that is always how it was and is with my family. When my daughters were still living with me, no matter how late in the evening, dinner was sacred and roll call was taken. Absences were ill tolerated and therefore rarely happened. This was not accomplished through threats and defaming rather it was the ritual itself that quelled objections. The dinner ritual became the fortress against the world where we could defuse the harsh demands of modern life. Light candles, put on soft music, prepare and break bread over good old fashion conversation.
The dinner ritual began when I was a child--I would race in asking what was on the menu. I loved to eat in those days, a habit I have continued. I relished the telling of tales and laughter that floated through the air. There was a real sense of belonging. We never ate in front of a television or separately--if one of us in the family was delayed--dinner was as well. Dinner was where you spilled your guts over happy/sad events of the day. It was in a way a conflict resolution forum. Airing grievances over meatloaf and mashed potatoes was easier that a mere conversation in the hallway.
As a single mom, I insisted on keeping the dinner rituals as a way of unifying the family, however small or large it was at that particular time. Misfit friends often supped with the girls and I marveling at the fact we actually ate together-- every night. When asked about their personal family dinner traditions, often they would lament that there were none.
The dinner ritual had a sense of collaboration. As the girls got older they became proficient sous chefs, table decorators, and meal planners. Often we wouldn't sit down to eat until after nine (the European style I suppose) when all the outside activities; dance, theatre, soccer, or whatever had ended. But there was always a feeling of "ahhh" a sense of renewal. Savoring these moments, both of my daughters are ardent keepers of the sacramental meal. When we are re-united the sentiment is the same--one chops, one sets, all clean. My new husband (who grew up deprived of dinner rituals) has fallen in tow and we too never eat in front of a machine. Rather we sip our wine and beer, then plop down to converse while stuffing our faces.
With the barrage of distractions, honoring dinner rituals is declaring war on technology. Shut off any semblance of a screen light some candles and sit down to a meal together. Ease family tensions away with even the simplest of meals; soup and salads or home cooked burritos or pasta--reinvent your personal cuisine. My new favorite is Indian recipes. Tune the world out and say yes to an age old tradition of breaking bread with those you love!
Causes Karen Devaney Supports
Eve Ensler and any organization that deals with issues supporting women and children and the advancement of their education.