Shared Meals Matter Blog

Mar 28th

Spring Break

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As I mentioned in a recent blog, I was recently on jury duty. During this time, the judge asked our group of jurors to refrain from social media for the duration of the trial. He said personal email (such as gmail) was OK, but no other kind of social media platform, internet search, etc. (He said there was a juror on a recent trial who was tweeting while they were in the juror box. That made me sad for the people involved in the trial she was serving.)

There were some grumblings from the jury about the mandate, but we all agreed.  It felt strange for the first few days, the feeling like you’ve forgotten something but you can’t remember what it was.  But I stuck with it and within a matter of a few days, it was only a mild annoyance which became less and less annoying as the days went on.  Because life balance is something I think about a lot, I looked forward to no computer, especially at night after dinner, which is a time I will typically sign in. The trial lasted three weeks, and although it was an adjustment to keep from logging in, and there were moments I felt compelled to just “peek” at my email, I didn’t do it.  In full disclosure, this wasn’t such a dramatic experience as I’m not online as much as other people may be ordinarily.  It just felt “weird”.  After I shook off the initial weird feelings, I settled in to feeling more relaxed, grounded, and I read some books I’ve been wanting to read for more than a year.   The most prominent, positive feeling I had was one of being able to focus.  There weren’t as many things calling out for my attention.  I could concentrate more easily, and most of all,  I felt more like me.

I worry about the overconsumption of technology on our kids, our friends, and in our social spaces.  In my book, I wrote about this phenomenon and the over-presence of technology, including when it interferes with connection at meals.

Even if you don’t have something like jury duty orders to keep you off social media, it’s a good idea to take a scheduled break, just to see how you feel ‘offline’.


Take a moment to think about this…when was the last time you decided to a vacation from technology?

Spring has always represented renewal and feelings of hope for many people.  Have you felt recently that you are online too much? Are you surrounding yourself with people or gadgets? Have you thought about signing off for a few days to re-balance your energies? If so, what about now? How about a new kind of Spring Break?

If you decide to do this, start slow. Just stay logged off for a short time (such as a day) and then assess what feels right to you.  Think about how much time you really want to devote to being online.  When (and if) you get back online, I’d love to hear about your experience.


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Mar 26th

Equal Love

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Hi All!

There’s been a lot in the news lately about Supreme Court hearings on Prop 8 and DOMA.  I’m adding my 2 cents about how I feel about the topic of equality.

I am a heterosexual woman who is a supporter of the right to marry the one you love.  Equality is a basic right, and I’m saddened to hear so much hostility about topics like gay or other civil rights. 

Let’s keep “love” at the center of civil and respectful discussionmarriageequality.

Here’s an excerpt from my book: 

Shared meals of any kind are certainly about much more than the physical act of eating food in the same room together. In today’s world we acknowledge and celebrate the existence of families who are comprised of a diverse demographic of people, who may be related, or not; who may live together, or are just friends and neighbors. But they are a family by virtue of their commitment to love and care for one another. Shared meals are for every family.

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Mar 22nd

Privilege or Annoyance?

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I just completed a three week jury duty on a criminal trial in downtown Los Angeles. I’ve been on a few other trials over the years so this was not a new experience for me. While I agree that it is not very convenient to put some of your routines on hold (including this blog), and it may cause real hardship to some to serve, I feel compelled to say that I wish some of my fellow citizens would be a bit less grousing and a little more welcoming of the opportunity and privilege to serve as a juror.

In the past decade or so, I’ve noticed the courts (at least in Los Angeles) bend over backwards to make you as comfortable as possible. The judges and attorneys seem very respectful, they listen with what seems like endless patience and consideration about whatever story someone has about why they need to get out of jury duty.  In the case of this trial, we had what I felt like would be a cooperative and attentive jury.  However, when it was time for deliberations to begin, behaviors of a few of the members stood out as being less dedicated to arriving at their best judgment of the evidence presented, and more concerned with the relatively minor inconveniences they were experiencing.  Some abdicated their responsibility to follow the instructions, some let their egos and biases get in their way of fully participating. I can’t imagine how it happens when people’s lives are on the line some will resort to complete selfishness of taking care of their temporary needs, or outright ignore the judge’s instructions.  It was frustrating and just plain sad to see this behavior.

You may ask why I’m deciding to use this blog about sharing meals to discuss jury duty.  Well, the answer is because when participating in either of the these activities – jury duty or sharing meals – you are demonstrating your concern and care for the welfare of your community.

It may not be the most pleasant thing to hear about or be assigned to discuss violent crimes, but sadly they do happen. Our system allows us to participate and help shape our society.  I’m not saying it’s a perfect system, but it’s what we have. (And, if you don’t like it, you can always together3get involved to try to change it.)  You have the best chance of influencing society positively when you let your voice be heard, so please use your voice with responsibility and care.  Just like when you make the time to share a meal with someone you care about, you’ll be glad you did.

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Mar 7th

Are You Living a “Juicy” Life?

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About 12 years ago, I was a singer in a band. Our guitarist, a guy named Toshi, a recruit from a local music school who spoke very little English, didn’t have too much to say as we were running through tunes during rehearsal. He would quietly groove along, at times, seeming to be lost in his own world. To gauge his agreement that we were on track with a song and that he was feeling good about his guitar parts, our band leader would say, “How was that for you, Toshi?” and Toshi, if he felt the song was sounding good, would nod emphatically and say, “Juicy”.  The room of musicians would erupt in laughter, smiles, and appreciation of his response, and it came to be a refreshing ritual we all enjoyed.

On one rehearsal break, I asked Toshi about his use of the word “juicy” and he said simply ,

“Love life – try to make it always juicy.”

The word juicy has been a meaningful metaphor to me since. When I see myself starting to fall into the trap of a mundane and overburdened schedule, I ask myself if I’m being mindful of life’s juiciness. One of the ways I live a juicy life is by sharing a meal at least once a day with someone special. It’s when I feel most invigorated and appreciate life to the fullest.

What do you do to keep your life “juicy”?

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Mar 5th

Words Matter

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I was born a foodie. It’s true. In early childhood on Sunday mornings, my Mom would sometimes make us french toast. One of my earliest memories was eagerly sitting with my siblings (six brothers and four sisters) awaiting my Mom to serve her buttery, milky, grilled “toast”. In the last moments before the breakfast would ceremoniously appear on our plates, my Mom would grab her tin container of cinnamon, and with an artistic attitude, give the toast a generous flourish of cinnamon. As soon as the toast would hit my plate, I recall studying the unique pattern the cinnamon created, and would glance over to one of my siblings to see what pattern was on their toast. Sometimes the pattern appeared to be in the shape of a cloud, or a banana, and once I imagined it looked like my Uncle Dom’s sweetly round face!

Through the years I have been blissfully admiring countless displays of food, considering both the visual appeal as well as how to create new flavors that complement each other, and most of all, looking forward to creating the work of art in the kitchen. It wasn’t until cooking shows featured on The Food Network appeared that I realized I had some “areas of opportunity” (to use a corporate expression I find amusing) in the kitchen.

Some people might feel defeated if they compare their cooking or baking skills to an Ina Garten or a Bobby Flay. Not me. I don’t fill the room with negative self-talk and instead celebrate my accomplishments, big and small.  I say, “Bravo!” for being in the kitchen, rather than relying on take-out or a drive-thru.  I recently made a new, exotic peanut-based soup, and I couldn’t have been more proud of the way the soup turned out.  I allowed myself the generous compliment of, “Oooh…you’re really getting quite good at these interesting soup creations.”

So, I hope you’ll take my advice….enter the kitchen wearing a confident smile, and remind yourself of these truths:  what really matters is engagement in the creative process, preparing good (and sometimes great) meals, and enjoying the company of people you love over a shared meal.

The next time you cook or bake something celebrate it, share it, and nurture your skills through giving yourself the kind, positive feedback you deserve.

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