As we near the end of 2013, and look forward to a 2014 full of hope, health, and happiness, I wanted to share with you information about my project, The Shared-Meal Revolution. Below you will find an article I wrote in a Q&A style that will answer some questions you may have.
I hope in 2014 you will enjoy a generous amount of shared meals!
What is The Shared-Meal Revolution?
It’s a social movement to create a more joyful and balanced life through the act of a shared-meal plan. It’s inclusive of family meals, but the broader concept expands to the benefits of a sharing society for everyone. Sharing is an important aspect of learning to live with others throughout our whole lives. We work hard at creating unity with others in the workplace, as well as creating financial wealth and stability, but we also need to invest and nurture our relationships in our personal lives. Doing so benefits us as individuals as well as an American society.
Why are shared meals important in today’s world?
Our lifestyles are complicated. Most of us have jammed schedules, and huge “to do” lists every day. We look for efficiency in everything we do. But caring for relationships requires that we invest personal, quality time. People are tired from heavy work schedules, or too many activities; sharing a meal becomes a chore that is often rushed and underappreciated rather than a relaxed, comfortable experience. No one is happy when their household members are like ships that pass in the night. A plan for gathering with others around a table once a day is what this revolution is about. People want the best for themselves and their families. They want a plan that will help them share a daily meal, but they don’t want to take on yet another responsibility on their own. My book offers advice and strategies to create a plan that is realistic and will work for your life. Since we all have to eat at some point in our day, why not share a meal with people we care about, and get all the benefits that a shared-meal ritual offers?
What are some of the benefits we get from sharing meals?
There are many. A lot of the available research I gathered for use in my book is from universities and social scientists. What I found focused a bit more on children and teens, but these concepts apply to adults too. Benefits include the opportunities for healthy nutrition, strong social skills, positive emotional health, strong academic performance, deep connection to ethnic and cultural roots, enhanced feelings of spirituality, creative skill building, and reduced risky behaviors and substance abuse in teens.
How do we make shared meals become part of our lifestyle?
It’s important when you are developing your plan that it makes sense for your lifestyle. Then the benefits of your shared-meal plan will build with each positive experience you share, and you’ll be motivated to keep the practice going. In my book I include helpful post-chapter exercises that will enhance your practice. You’ll want to use some of the best practices and habits described as well, such as keeping a relaxed environment and savoring your food. Everyone can help with the various shared-meal activities, even the smallest of children. When you create a plan that’s right for you, it will soon be as comfortable a part of your routine as getting dressed or brushing your teeth.
Are shared meals mostly just important to families?
Shared meals are especially important for families with children, but everyone can benefit from a shared-meal ritual. Today’s families consist of people who may or may not live with one another — relatives, and also friends and neighbors. I view a family as any group that has a commitment to love and care for one another.
How big a factor does technology play in all of this? Do you blame technology for keeping us from having shared meals?
I love how technology benefits our lives in a million different ways, but our society is showing increased warning signs of over-dependence. Many label it an addiction. We can show our respect in the company of others when we put away our smartphones and turn the TV off while we are eating. Be fully present. Kids especially need to feel that their parents are committed to the time they spend with them, and not distracted by a device. But this idea certainly holds true for everyone.
What are the first steps I would take in developing a shared-meal plan?
Start by thinking about what shared meals mean to you now and what you want your shared-meal ritual to be. Envision it in detail. Then gather everyone with whom you want to share meals (your shared-meal circle) and talk about your desire and commitment to include a shared meal somewhere in your schedule each day (breakfast, lunch, dinner – it’s up to you). Consider using a template (two examples are in my book) that will help you decide the features of your plan. Remember to relax, have fun, and watch your shared-meal ritual develop and get even better with time. With everyone working together and enjoying the benefits, I’m confident it will.
Carol Archambeault believes sharing meals is the foundation for recognizing one another’s humanity and imparting our life stories. A dual citizen of Italy, she currently resides in southern California. Carol is working to spur a national dialogue about the benefits of sharing meals through her new book, The Shared-Meal Revolution: How to Reclaim Balance and Connection in a Fragmented World through Sharing Meals with Family and Friends (available through online retailers such as www.amazon.com), and her blog Shared Meals Matter. Connect with Carol at www.shared-meals.com, www.facebook.com/sharedmeals and on Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter @sharedmeals.