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In Defense Of The Family Dinner

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In Defense Of The Family Dinner

Laurie David hit the nail on the head. “There is one thing I did right as a parent: cultivating the ritual of our family dinner since the children where young,” she said recently at a Climate One event in San Francisco, where she had been invited to discuss her new book The Family Dinner: Great Ways To Connect With Your Kids, One Meal At A Time. She made no bone about what a hard time she’s currently having with her two teenage daughters, Cazzie and Romy. “Everything you’ve ever heard about teenage kids is true, and beyond: it’s horrible!” she said with a laugh. “But they do come to the dinner table every night and that’s my chance to connect with them,” she added.

Her book was born of a simple and obvious premise: the ability of a family to sit down together and connect through shared food and conversation is an essential building block of a child’s formative years. A family meal brings a child not only nutrition but also self-confidence, connection with parents and siblings, and a transmission of family stories and values. It’s also at the dinner table that the child gets to practice empathy and gratitude.

Now, allow me a little confession. I am somewhat perplexed by the American conversation about “The Family Dinner,” this special event that one aspires to and must work towards — unless, more often than not, one ignores it altogether in favor of the “refuel-alone” scenario. Given my own upbringing, it would never occur to me, nor to anyone I know back across the Big Pond, to even talk about “family dinner.” There’s just dinner. As unalterable, undebatable and unavoidable as the advent of night after sunset. As a child living with my parents, when else, where else, what else would I eat but what my parents would put on the kitchen table for the whole family to enjoy?

When I was a child in France, 80 percent of mothers were working outside of the home yet no parents could escape making dinner day in day out — not necessarily anything fancy or even creative, nor always to the liking of the children, but home-cooked nevertheless. In the rush to get through the day’s chores, many opportunities to turn those meals into “family quality time” were undoubtedly lost. Nevertheless, meal after meal, day after day, one grew up in the setting of those relationships, connections and stories woven around food. Then, the festive, elaborate Sunday lunch would usually be a strong reminder that gathering around the table and sharing food prepared with love is a beautiful ritual indeed.

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Read more: Babies, Blogs, Children, Conscious Consumer, Diet & Nutrition, Family, Food, General Health, Home, Mental Wellness, The Green Plate, ,

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Laetitia Mailhes

Laetitia Mailhes is a French-born journalist. After many years as the technology and innovation correspondent of the French "Financial Times" in San Francisco, she decided to focus on what truly matters to her: sustainable food and farming. Find more articles and videos on her blog, The Green Plate Blog.

68 comments

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8:32AM PDT on May 24, 2011

I make dinner every night and we all enjoy that time together and here about our day. Great artical.

12:55AM PDT on May 24, 2011

Thanks. Family meals are important. They help instill and reaffirm the importance of togetherness, communication, cohesiveness and socializing.

5:01AM PDT on May 20, 2011

Love it!

5:09PM PST on Dec 12, 2010

I couldn't agree more, it's such a crucial part of socialising young people, in order to make them more balanced adults!

7:54AM PST on Nov 23, 2010

My parents are divorced since I was 6 years old, and as far back as I can remember when ever I had dinner with my dad, it was a family meal with my little brother. My mom never really bothered unless it was a special occation like sunday with my Grand parents or a holiday. Oddly enough, me and my brother have always felt closer to my dad than to my mom, wonder if this had anything to do with this.

9:16PM PST on Nov 22, 2010

Always !!!!

7:57AM PST on Nov 19, 2010

thanks for the article we have family dinners I cook every week night glad to know I am doing something right for my kids, no can foods either, but I do stay home so I guess I am lucky I have the time to do it

7:24AM PST on Nov 18, 2010

I think that people have such busy and sometimes conflicting schedules that it's easy to forget how important it is to set aside this time together. Eating/spending time builds rapport and connection, which is essential to any family. It's this time together that builds memories.

2:04AM PST on Nov 18, 2010

We eat a family dinner every night. Problem is, people don't know how to cook anymore.

11:28PM PST on Nov 17, 2010

thanks.

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