As far as I can remember, in my family we have always eaten together at least one meal a day. When my sister and I were little, that was dinner, as we had lunch at school. Then, in high school, we started going home for lunch, so we had dinner together. It didn’t need to be anything fancy; just the four of us having a meal together and enjoying some conversation.
When I moved out and went to live with my sister, we kept sharing at least one meal whenever it was possible.
Then, I came to the US.
For the most part of the year I was alone and I ate whenever I could/wanted. Mostly, alone. Then, husband and I moved in together. And even if I tried, we don’t share as many meals as I’d like to. I want to have a “regular” eating schedule, but he has weird eating habits, which makes it really difficult. I usually end up waiting for him to be hungry/wanting to eat. And that has messed up my schedule too. It’s a work in progress and one of my goals to accomplish during 2016.
In many countries, mealtime is treated as sacred. In France, for instance, while it is acceptable to eat by oneself, one should never rush a meal. A frenzied salad muncher on the métro invites dirty glares, and employees are given at least an hour for lunch. In many Mexican cities, townspeople will eat together with friends and family in central areas like parks or town squares. In Cambodia, villagers spread out colorful mats and bring food to share with loved ones like a potluck
Here are some of the reasons why I think it’s very important to eat together:
When a family has busy schedules (work, classes, other commitments) eating together provides some time to talk to each other without distractions like tv, laptops or phones. It gives a chance to share what happened during the day and it’s a moment to give some attention to each other.
- Model Manners
Many kids (and adults) don’t know how to behave at the table. Chew with the mouth open, check the phone while eating, shout, sing, dance, play with the food, stretching… I am thankful that my parents taught me table manners. That way I won’t embarrass myself and the people that are around me when going out.
- Enjoy new kinds of foods
Why not have some theme dinners during the week? Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean, American… If you have kids they will grow up knowing to enjoy more types of foods and they will be culturally richer. Also, the more different foods that they like, the easier will be for them to eat out when they’re traveling.
We all know that eating homemade food is way healthier than eating out, and taking a moment to stop everything that you’re doing to have a meal is as important as what you eat. Take a break. Sit down. Relax and enjoy the food. Eating what you cooked gives a feeling of accomplishment too.
- Portion control
One of the things that I realized when I came here is that portions are huge in restaurants! I love food and where I come from we get pretty good portions in restaurants, but here are simply huge. Sometimes we just eat all of it instead of getting a to-go box, and that’s when we get the “I ate too much” feeling. When eating at home you can control how much you eat, and you can always save the leftovers for later without giving it too much thought.
- Save money
Everyone knows that it is cheaper to cook at home than eating out. Make the effort and you’ll save some bucks!
- Being self-sufficient
Why not making cooking a family thing? Cooking together can be a fun experience and your kids will learn how to prepare their favorite plates. Is it just me or is it sad when an adult doesn’t know how to cook but scrambled eggs?
I have also found some studies that show that eating meals together as a family help kids get better grades at school and say no to drugs and smoking (CASA report).
I think these are pretty powerful reasons to cook and sit down at the table with your family and share a meal and some conversation. What are your thoughts on this?