Shared Meals Matter Blog

Dec 29th

What is The Shared-Meal Revolution?

Posted by with No Comments

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!

juicy-places

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Read More
Dec 24th

Liz & Phil

Posted by with No Comments

I often miss my mother and father, who passed away (respectively) in 2000 and 2005.  In addition to effectively managing to raise 6 sons and 5 daughters, and taking the helm of grandparents and great-grandparents over dozens, they were unique individuals, loved by many.

My mother, Elizabeth, was a selfless woman. Liz, as she was affectionately called by some family members and friends, put a 1000 percent effort into every task, no matter how small or big. Everything was handled with great care, attention, and love. To her, being a mother was the highest honor one could receive. It could be that my mother was so committed to us because she lost her mother when she was only 2 years old, and for a short time, lived in an orphanage, apart from her brothers and sisters, until her father went back to the old country (Italy), married a new wife and the family was reunited. Even though she took her mothering responsibilities quite seriously, there was never a shortage of laughter, silliness, and lightheartedness. My mother taught me to do the unexpected, and as a model for this, she showed us how to be the coolest 65-year-old belly dancer in town. She also sang with abandon at family gatherings, and if you were in the room when “Happy Birthday” was being sung, you could hear her baritone voice cut through all the other singing.  Among many gifts my mother gave me over the years, I inherited her grand spirit, low voice, an occasionally off-beat sense of humor.  I guess humor is what was needed to keep all the pieces of her life together.

My father, Phillip, was as dedicated a family man as you could find. He was often low-key, diverse in talents ranging from airplane pilot training to TV repairman, to band leader.  He was a Renaissance man of sorts, although I didn’t realize it until I was well into my adulthood. Phil loved being at the center of attention, often telling stories of his youth, his family life, and helping his kids to have perspective of the modern world we were growing into.  Being the youngest (with a twin brother) of the family, I remember hearing my older brothers and sisters talk about his courage and his unabashed efforts to protect his kids, such as the time when my brother Frank was stricken at the age of 5 with sudden heart failure (from an expired cough medication, they later discovered). At one point when my father was feeling like Frank was being used by the doctors as a guinea pig to treat this mysterious condition, my father insisted (in no uncertain terms) that the medical team stop using his son for research, and focus on finding the solution to his heart condition.  Each Christmas, my father had his picture taken next to the Christmas tree, with a handkerchief wiping his brow in one hand, and an open, obviously empty wallet in the other hand.  It was this humor, and seemingly a different ritual for every occasion, that held our interest. From my father, I learned to speak up for myself, and that life has ups and downs and you better find a way to roll with it, or you’ll struggle needlessly.

LizandPhilLiz and Phil were two individuals who were not blessed with an abundance of money or opportunity.  They didn’t have lavish clothes or possessions. They gave each child one or two gifts each Christmas. But they didn’t feel sorry for themselves.  They felt blessed with a full house of children, and a large network of extended family and friends. They created a home for their kids that was full of love, support, honesty, and humor.  We lived simple lives, yet I never felt a moment of wanting or needing.  We had their attention, time, and most importantly a strong connection with each other.

They hosted a family meal ritual for our family from the 1940’s until the 1980’s (and then beyond that for years when their children had grown and had families of their own).  We enjoyed meals together at least once (often twice) a day.  They made certain this was a gift we received all year long.

On this Christmas day, I want to thank my parents for the enduring gifts they gave to our family through their daily commitment of time, and activities such as our wonderful family meals together.  But most of all I want to acknowledge them for this enduring legacy — faith in their God, faith in each other, and faith that their commitment to raising 11 healthy, happy children, would ensure them a better life then they could imagine.

This Christmas, my daughter is out of the country so I will be having a quiet celebration with my son. While we’re sharing meals Christmas Eve and Christmas day, I will send my loving wishes to Liz and Phil, and hope they are approving of the job I have done raising my children.  I hope they can see the faith I put at work every day to create memorable and enjoyable shared-meal experiences, and a joy-filled family life, an everlasting gift I received from them.

Merry Christmas to you and your families.  I hope you share magical meals together today and thank those you love by giving the gift of your presence every day.

 

Read More
Dec 17th

Two Hands

Posted by with No Comments

A couple of years ago I thought about how many gifts I could make.  I know I personally always prefer to receive a homemade gift (my kids will tell you that I make the same request of them each year — “give me a framed picture of you, or write me a story about a memory we’ve shared, or create a meal for me”).

Because I’m so passionate about helping people to create a daily shared-meal ritual, many gifts I’ve made have to do with a special recipe, or something to enhance the environment of the dining table.

One such gift I made for a former professor of mine was a meal platter.  Here it is:

WinbushfamilyI just love the colors in this platter, and the imperfections that are visible make it all the better.  (Who wants perfection, anyway?)

My professor has told me what a cherished possession this gift is in her family.  They use it for many shared meals and I can picture her family gathered together telling stories and laughing over dinner. This knowledge brings me an endless amount of joy.

When I finished painting this platter (at a local “Color Me Mine” store) I was ready to wear a beret and speak in a French accent. I really felt like an artiste!

There’s no need to feel badly if you buy all your gifts…that’s definitely not what I’m saying.

But I am suggesting that it’s worth exploring the creativity that lies inside of you, and giving someone you love a precious gift you have made with your own two hands. 

 

 

Read More
Dec 11th

A world where children are veggie-literate

Posted by with No Comments

Some causes are worth talking about often.  One such cause is being driven by acclaimed Chef and Author Alice Waters’ and her Edible Schoolyard Project.  Ms. Waters oversees the Edible Schoolyard Project which is a non-profit organization, founded in 1995 in Berkeley, California.edibleschool

The mission of the ESP is to get children involved with gardening, preparing, and serving food, while developing an appreciation for how whole food nourishes you, as well as bringing people together through community of sharing food.  By including these activities in school curriculum, children integrate this knowledge into their lifestyle and habits.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, and certainly promising for the health of our communities, if this type of project was everywhere across America, and then the rest of the world?

As Alice Waters says:  “How we eat can change the world.”

I certainly agree!

CLICK on this link for more information about The Edible Schoolyard project.  I support them and hope you will too.

http://vimeo.com/61921972

 

Read More
Dec 3rd

The Eyes Have It

Posted by with No Comments

I started taking a Tai Chi class earlier this year.   The leader of the group is this wonderful man named Robert.  He’s so patient and goes out of his way to do the little special things that count, such as welcome people who are new to the class and find out a little bit about them.

As we are beginning our warm-up, Robert typically talks about something that’s been going on in the world, or in his life, or with someone in the class.  Throughout the class, he weaves in stories (in a narrative style) about the various moves we are doing, to help us remember the form, but also to enrich the experience.

What I enjoy most about this class however, is the last two minutes. It’s then that Robert has us stretch our arms wide open and smile a gigantic smile (stretching our smile muscles as part of our routine.)

Then, he makes a powerful statement, a reminder and the highlight of the class:

“Now, keep that smile behind your eyes all day. You’ll notice how it lifts your spirits, as well as those who interact with you.”

smileeyesWe don’t have to wait for an instruction from a Tai Chi class (or any other type of direction) to remind us to put a smile behind our eyes.

Think about how putting forth your beautiful set of smiling eyes will help to elevate the positive energy of any environment.

 

 

Read More