Here, Michael Pollan, a highly recognized political food author, speaks about the importance of the family meal.
When I was younger, my parents had a huge dinner bell on our back porch. We would be swimming or playing outside all of the time so my parents figured it would save them some hassle. The bell became a unique aspect of our neighborhood; many families knew we were the house “with the bell”. Hearing it ring from miles away would be our sign to run home for dinner.
I’ll admit, it’s a bit dorky, not to mentioned very middle class, but it worked. My parents, whether it was just one, both, or post-divorce around a new table, have always ensured that we share meals together and it began with that big bell! For me, the dinner bell and eating together were staples of our home, and my upbringing.
But, as Pollan mentions, today, families really, really don’t do that and I wonder if all of the reasons why are worth the sacrifice. The demise of the family unit seems to be getting more and more concrete and as a result, we are suffering. Working with families on a regular basis, I’m noticing trends that frighten me, but I don’t really know how to help in that respect. I struggle with knowing my students’ situations, and not being able to do anything about it. All I can do is try to help them be leaders of their own lives, but when staring into their teared or angered faces, I know that immediate healing is what some of them need. I can’t help but wonder if time with their family around a meal would be the answer. It’s pretty simple actually, but at the same, extremely difficult for many: a cohesive moment where everyone stops freaking out for a moment.
In any case, for me, I continue to seek out those moments with friends, where we can enjoy a meal together, or even a snack with a magnificent brew or wine. When we are planning to get out of town, an essential discussion is the menu for the trip and it’s taken seriously. In this era of hectic work ethics, I still insist that it happen often. While I made the choice to live far away from family, I’ve noticed that as I get older, I want to ensure that meal time is recognized as something special as often as possible. It’s something I no longer take for granted.
And I’m not alone in that endeavor. I still marvel at what food can do for the human connection. When I do get to have a meal with friends, I continue to reflect about how much of my life is spent sharing that life around food, and the conversations we get to have because we have put our busy lives to the side for a moment, and technology to rest so that we can just be.
Whether that takes place in the woods, in our homes, in a cabin, in another country, or around town, I’m grateful for all of it! On this holiday weekend for some, I hope you too get to enjoy meal time with some of the people you care about.