Shared Meals Matter Blog

Aug 21st

Five-year-old Fashion Femme Fatales?

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While I was working out at the gym today, I noticed a nearby TV that showed a reporter excitedly doing surprise “live” interviews with parents and kids as the kids were being dropped off for their first day of school. The reporter appeared to focus on kindergarten and first grade children.  I casually looked over to see/hear about the topic of questioning.  The reporter crouched down to a whisper of a little girl named “Amanda” and asked her (with a great deal of excitement!) if she “felt good!”  I thought, well, that’s sweet, and then I heard the rest of what the reporter was saying: child after child the reporter asked if the child “felt good about the clothing” she (or he) was wearing.  The parents (some of whom seemed as caught off guard by the reporter’s questions as I was) nervously tried to play along with the reporter.  These were very little kids…maybe five or six years old.  I thought to myself, geez Louise…couldn’t the reporter have asked something a little more meaningful to that child about how they felt about their first day of school, about meeting new friends, about what they were most excited to do that day, or learn at school?

I remember well the pressures of buying some of the “cool” clothes my kids requested when they were in high school in the 2000’s (and perhaps in the late 1990’s when they were in middle school as well) but it looks like this type of pressure (for everyone – parents and kids) is now starting from a very early age.  It made me upset and I felt I had to write about it.

To be clear, I don’t think there is anything wrong with kids wearing cool clothes and expressing themselves through clothing choices as they grow older.  But does how you feel about your clothing have to be the emphasis on a child’s first day of school, and at such a young age?  If I had a child this age, I would not want the memory of their first day of school to be in reflection of how people reacted to their clothing.

I am personally in favor of school uniforms for kids (like the ones in this picture) because it de-emphasizes outward appearance, and gives kids a chance to recognize each other from the inside.  There’s also no stigma for kids who can’t afford to buy the latest designer jeans, or the ‘right’ shoes or accessories.

schooluniforms

When sitting with your kids over dinner at the end of the day, talk with them about their school experience, their friends, topics that appeal to them, and help them identify their passions.  

Kids don’t need designer labels to get them through school — they need support and interaction with people who love them to develop who they are.  Around the dinner table over a shared meal you can help them discover their true, lovely selves.

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Aug 14th

Choosing the Best Version

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Until about a year ago, I’ve typically purchased salad dressings from stores instead of making my own. I recently discovered just how easy it is to make your own.  I don’t know exactly why it took me so long to recognize this!  I guess it’s because my skills as a cook are very modest. To me I focused more on gathering around the table, and little bit less on what we were eating. But I’m growing, learning and being patient with myself as I acquire new skills in the kitchen.

After I tested this recipe myself, I decided to share how to make it with my son, John, who loves Ranch dressing. He likes to use Ranch for various types of dipping, such as French fries, or pizza crusts.  My son is 25 and is slowly growing his skills in the kitchen too.  He’s a musician/artist so I think he’s seeing more and more how cooking relates to creative skills.  Here he is shaking up the dressing.

JohnRanchThe recipe we used (I looked at several recipes online, and modified to settle on this very basic version-you can modify to your tastes):

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 T fresh parsley
  • 2 T chives
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar

Shake up the contents in a Mason jar or other container, and you have a delicious Ranch dressing.

I’ve learned to consider more carefully the choices I’m making in the kitchen.  It’s easy to do things the way you have always done in the past just because it’s more efficient.  But the quality of what you eat really makes a difference.  Why not choose to make a better version of what you’re eating than settle on something that might have preservatives and other ingredients that you really don’t want to consume?

There’s a huge payoff in learning what you can make yourself.  All it requires is a few extra moments of consideration as you plan your grocery list, and a few more minutes in the kitchen as you are preparing the meal.  But you’ll feel better, have more fun in the kitchen, and feel mighty proud for having made something so delicious with your own two hands.

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Aug 9th

The Company You Keep

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Happy Friday!  I’ve been putting the finishing touches on my book which will be released shortly (details soon).  In the book I talk about making your shared-meal practice the most joyful it can be, including selecting the company you keep.

In the past, I’ve sometimes made decisions to spend time or share a meal with someone because I felt it was the expected thing to do because of circumstances in which I might see or spend time with this person in the future.  As I’ve thought more carefully about how precious time can be, I’ve set new standards for the company I keep.  This statement may sound harsh, but when you think about it, I’m advocating that we make the most of our lives.  It’s always great to make new friends,  just be mindful if that new friendship is mutually beneficial and warrants spending more time together.

Stress

 

When you find yourself planning the next dinner, the next hike, or the next vacation…carefully consider who you would like to be with to make the best of the experience.

Have a fun weekend!

 

 

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Aug 1st

An Apple a Day…

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One of my lasting memories from the meals my family shared together during my childhood happened on Friday evenings.  After dinner was finished, we would linger at the table and continue our conversation.  My mother performed what our family affectionately referred to as her “apple-peeling trick”.  She would take a sharp knife, and with her sturdy hands make a single tear in the skin at the top of the apple and peel the apple in one continuous action creating a dome.  She would place the dome in the center of the table, and then cut the peeled apple into slices to share with me and a couple others.  It looked very much like this:

applepeel

From what I recall, she always used a red apple.  As I grew up, I learned that there was nutrition in the apple peels, and that there were many more varieties than what I had been exposed to in my humble home.

The “apple-peeling trick” was a ritual that made an impression on me because it was an added element to our already strong family meal ritual. As a little girl, I sat directly next to my mother throughout my childhood (a coveted seat given there were eleven children around the table). I would see her get ready to do her apple-peeling routine with anticipation.  This action, however small, enhanced the experience of those around the table sharing the meal by adding a little ‘magic’ that was specific to our family.

When you have a shared-meal ritual, the possibilities to enhance the ritual are endless. 

Is there something YOU do at the dinner table that adds a magical element? 

I would love to hear about what makes your family meal ritual special.  Please feel free to share so we can spread some shared-meal love today!

 

 

 

 

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