I can’t imagine life without a table between us. The table is the life raft, the center point, the home base of who we are together. –Shauna Niequist from Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table
Of all the lessons I learned while living in Latin America, the most precious might be the concept of the “table as a life raft.” The modern American family has left the dinner table in search of more convenient ways of feeding their bodies. In doing so, they have also forfeited the opportunity to feed their souls. Instead of home-cooked meals, parents rush through the nearest drive thru. The family dinner table has morphed instead into a homework battlefield. Truthfully, most days it sits lonely and abandoned or piled high with laundry and old mail.
As a working mother, I cannot recall many evening meals shared around the table at home. I can remember plenty eaten in the car on the way to some appointment, or gobbled at a sit-down restaurant only because we needed to waste time before heading to our next “event.” Most of all, I remember, that very little of those meals were nourishing – to our bodies or our souls.
Before Ecuador forced me into a life of simplicity, I thought sharing family meals around our table at home were impossible. During those days, the thought of cooking made me feel like I needed a nap. Life was too busy for me to cook; my schedule too demanding for me to take that detour.
Since returning to the states, our family’s life has returned to a modified state of busyness. Armed with the benefits of the simple life, I have forcefully decided on some quality table time. I value the moments shared with my family in the comfort of our home, especially the ones shared around a home-cooked meal.
Because I feel that family meals can be the life-blood of healthy families, I decided to share my tips of making these soul-nourishing moments a possibility. With the working parent in mind, I have taken favorite recipes and broken them down into parts so dinner preparation is a snap.
The goal is simple: start cooking dinner one night a week. That means for one night you and your family will sit around the table, look at one another, talk, share, discuss, and even debate vehemently (if your kids are like mine.)
I can see many readers at this moment rolling their eyes and doing so for two reasons. One they feel like meals at home aren’t really that life-changing (mainly because they’ve experienced a few unpleasant ones) and two, they feel the guilt rising up about having to DO one more thing.
Let me be the first to say, I get it. I have the privilege of being able to see this “family meal” from both sides. I remember feeling the pressure and exhaustion of working full-time outside the home as well as full-time inside the home. It is exhausting. In addition, I too have cooked dinner and sat down to listen to constant bickering and complaining around the table.
Gordon B. Hinckley said, “The cause of most of man’s unhappiness is sacrificing what he wants most for what he wants now.” Basically, this is what the choice to share meals with family is about. In our busy, chaotic, over-scheduled world, what we want right now is food and we want it quick. It’s an afterthought in our day. We slide through the drive-thru for convenience. On the other hand, what we want most is intimacy with our kids and our spouse. We want to know them, to create memories with them, to love them until they have no doubts of our love. However, due to our crazy lives that we allow to control us – instead of the other way around –we are sacrificing the very things we want.
If you think about it, committing to sharing a family dinner at home one day a week is a small commitment. So basically I think the question before us today is: Am I sacrificing what I want most simply because my life’s now dictates my every decision?
The days we have with our kids are numbered. No one knows this better than a mom who is staring down her firstborn’s senior year (that’d be me!). He won’t be at my table much longer. I must take my now and turn it into what I want most: a life raft that my family will return to when the souls and bodies need nourishing.
** CHECK BACK THIS WEEKEND FOR FIRST RECIPE POST:
SICILIAN MEAT ROLL AND ITALIAN STIR FRY