“Supper is ready!”
Every evening between 6:30pm and 7:00pm, my husband and children join me at our dining table “to break bread“. The television is switched off, reading books and toys are set aside, the ringing telephone is left unanswered.
As the years pass, this routine is kept in our lives: no matter how hard it is to resist the call of the television at times, or how late we arrive home. It is round the table that we speak to one another: we hear the highlights of everyone’s day, as well as the lowlights. The children learn to express themselves as they share their experiences and their thoughts on any topic brought up at the table. Sharing our meal at the table has come to mean more than just eating as we build bonds with one another.
Eating together at the table has shown our children the habit of eating food slowly – a habit they have learned very well! While eating we talk about the tastes we are experiencing, and whether we like it or not. I encourage the children to take at least one bite of a new food, or a food they do not like at the moment. In this way I hope their palate becomes accustomed to the new taste and they learn to savour it.
Eating slowly, we give our bodies time to begin the digestive process and are able to notice the signals that our tummies are full. This helps us to eat smaller portions, and helps to prevent ourselves from overeating. The children see the example we set them when we serve portions, they learn about greed and the pain that is felt with overeating, when to stop eating, and to not waste their food.
Eating together also gives my husband and I the opportunity to civilize our children: we remind them how to sit, how to eat properly with their cutlery, and give them the opportunity to practise dishing out their food. Their practice stands in good stead when we eat out at a restaurant, or go out for a meal at someone else’s home. Social norms are learned, which enables them to cope with eating outside of the home. In this way no-one is embarassed when faced with the unfamiliar territory of a set table.
I enjoy eating my meals together with my family. I enjoy the conversation, and seeing the development of our children as their conversation skills improve. I learn about the day that each member of my family had: their achievements, their difficulties, and the solutions they found for the problems which they encountered. I enjoy, too, seeing them appreciate the food that we have prepared. The meal is not 5 star – they are often quick and easy dinners – but they have been cooked with love and health in mind.
Do you eat one meal a day with the people you live with? What is the best part, for you, of participating in a shared meal?
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012