Shared Meals Matter Blog

Feb 25th

Why being intentional about meal times can make a difference to your family

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Before I wrote my book “The Shared-Meal Revolution: How to Reclaim Balance and Connection in a Fragmented World through Sharing Meals with Family and Friends“, I did a master’s thesis on my own family’s meal practice, and how it changed over generations.

What I learned from doing this thesis, and subsequently when writing my book, was how our parents’ used our family meal ritual as a way to best serve our well-being.  There were 11 of us — 6 boys and 5 girls.  Having a shared-meal ritual required discipline, creativity and planning (to name just a few of the qualities) needed to serve the thousands of meals we shared while we were being raised.  Our family meal ritual didn’t happen by accident.  It was a primary activity we used to keep our family connected.  My parents had their share of challenges and pressures that come with every era (and every family) but they did not have some of the modern lifestyle pressures many families are faced with today.

Today, families manuever through complicated schedules (both adults and children). Technology distracts us from the more personal interactions that were present before the progression of social media. Some employers expect more than a typical workday productivity which results in excessive work hours to just keep up.  Add to this, we have a very high-choice culture, which sometimes can complicate the choices we make around how and with whom we share our time; there are many competing priorities.  In many homes, leadership is key to carrying out intentions. Leadership requires a commitment to the intentions we set.

MultiGenerationFamily

Because we live in a rather complicated world, we need a plan that will help us achieve our intentions.  When we are able to see our intentions through, it can make a positive difference.

Here are some of the ways why being intentional about meal times can make a difference to your family:

  • It allows us the opportunity to be a member of a community (the first community that every person first experiences is in their homes).
  • It can help us feel whole and human, versus fragmented and robotic from being pulled in many different directions.  (Keeping the technology, TV, and cell phones on a meal time-out is a must to preserve the best experience without distraction.)
  • We are able to witness each others’ lives.  It is this “looking out for each other” that helps us weather storms, develop our identity and personality traits, and receive support from people we trust along the way.
  • Shared-meal rituals helps us to simplify our lives. If we know that our intention is to take care of our relationships, showing up each day to share a meal says to those we love:  “I value you, and want to be a part of your life.”  Life feels easier when we take care of the big things first.
  • Children need routines to feel stability, and a shared-meal ritual is something that helps fulfill this need.  In children who don’t receive this, they may look outside the home for ways to feel accepted and secure.
  • Sharing meals routinely with your family can help children develop healthy eating habits that will influence their eating habits as adults. Nutritious food choices can be encouraged by parents’ role modeling.
  • Throughout life, sharing is an important aspect of learning to live with others, and participating in a shared-meal ritual helps you learn these important, collaborative skills of “playing well with others”.
  • One of biggest gains in being intentional about meal times is that it gives family members a deep feeling of commitment towards each other.  Those positive feelings help family members feel a sense of peace and contentment, something we all seek in order to get enjoyment from our lives.

 

Shared meals matter to every family.  If you seeking ways to improve the well-being of your family, consider developing a shared-meal plan to receive these benefits.  Visit www.shared-meals.com for more information.

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Feb 25th

Online/global meal sharing through my friends at mealsharing.com

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Last week while I was doing research for a new book I plan to write about meal practices around the world, I ran across a website called mealsharing.com.  I was thrilled to see this organization since bringing people together through the activity of sharing meals is a primary passion and goal for my book and The Shared-Meal Revolution.

I made contact with Jessica Smith Soto who is their community manager.  What follows below are answers from Jessica about their organization. It’s such an exciting idea to share meals with people all over the world that I wanted to share this information with you.  Enjoy!

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MealshareWhat is Meal Sharing?  How does it work?

Mealsharing.com is a website that enables travelers and locals to connect with each other over home cooked meals. Hosts around the world are now able to open up their kitchens to people so they can experience their life through food.  The website facilitates community building through shared resources, promotes cultural exchange, and encourages people to cook at home to enable a healthy lifestyle.  It works through our platform, where you can create a profile that helps share who you are. You can search by city and see either locals or hosts, and request/invite them to a meal share.

Where did the idea of Meal Sharing come from?

The idea of Meal Sharing was solidified while Jay Savsani, our founder, was traveling in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Jay had the unique opportunity to be hosted by a Cambodian family for a meal in their home.  It was such a magical experience to be in their home, eating traditional Cambodian dishes, and sharing tales from their respective homelands. The best part of the evening was when the host busted out his Casio keyboard and played some classical Cambodian songs. It was this first Meal Share, even before there was a website, that was a major milestone in highlighting the development of what Meal Sharing is today. 

Who do you feel would benefit from Meal Sharing? 

Everyone who eats! People can choose if they want to be a host or guest. Some people love to express their creativity through cooking food, and some just love to try it. Home cooked food tends to be healthier, fresher, and more local, and there is a stronger human connection.

When would someone want to use Meal Sharing?

While it started with travelers in mind, now it’s become a way for locals also to connect in their own neighborhoods. Our mission is to point to anywhere on the map, and be welcomed to a home cooked meal, whether it’s in your hometown or across the world from everything that is familiar.

What is one of your favorite Meal Sharing event memories so far?

As community manager, I attend very frequent Meal Shares! It’s hard to say which one is my favorite because my favorite thing about Meal Sharing is how unique every experience is thanks to the diversity of our hosts. One of my favorites might be with a host named Anna. She’s from Ireland and lives in Chicago, and the food she made was so fresh, and the whole meal was from scratch. She feels very strongly about good butter, and we had buttery garlic bread, hummus, spinach cannoli, and salad, followed by molasses cookies and coffee/tea. There was a good mix of her friends, and people new to Meal Sharing, and it was just one of those nights when I looked around the table and said “THIS. This is what Meal Sharing is.”

How do I find out more about Meal Sharing?

Visit our website for a clear vision of who we are as a community, www.mealsharing.com, and engage with us on social media! We are on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, and Instagram. We are also re-vamping our blog very soon!

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Feb 18th

Why a shared-meal ritual is just like Tinney Davidson’s wave!

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There’s been a sweet story that was posted today on the Huffington Post about a lovely 84 year old Canadian woman named Tinney Davidson.  She and teens from a nearby school have a routine whereby she waves to them out of her window every day as they pass her home.

TinneyDavidson

If you haven’t seen the video, here it is:  Tinney Davidson “Waving” Video

The kids developed such an appreciation for her waving, and other charitable ways Tinney helped their community, that they gave her a sweet Valentine’s Day surprise.

This story highlighted how much emotional security this ritual provided these teens, knowing Tinney would dependably be there in the window, waiting to acknowledge each child with a loving, enthusiastic wave of her hand.

Kids of any age enjoy the comfort that comes with stability in their routine.  This is one of many reasons why I believe sharing meals is such a valuable activity in our homes.

Having a time each day to gather, interact, communicate, smile, and enjoy each others’ company can bring that joyful quality that is apparent in the children in this video. This type of contentment develops from knowing that there are people who are committed to your well-being, and who acknowledge your presence every day.  Just like Tinney.

It doesn’t get any sweeter than that.

Why not “wave” to the people you love every day through a shared-meal?

If you’d like to create your own shared-meal ritual, please visit my website: www.shared-meals.com.

 

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Feb 18th

How sharing meals helped me cope with divorce

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I often think about the “big issues’ that a shared-meal ritual has helped me with in my life. One of those issues happened many years ago now, when I was divorced.

I was married when I was 21 years old and divorced when I was around 27 years old.  My ex-husband and I were typical of many from our generation who moved on to marriage quickly as the default “next step” after serious dating.  We enjoyed our time together for many years raising our daughter Jini and her younger brother John. It became clear as the years passed that my ex-husband and I did not have a unified vision or outlook on life, and valued different things.  As much as we felt truly blessed to have a precious daughter and son, we ultimately chose the very hard (and in our case, inevitable) path of getting divorced. Fortunately for everyone involved, we did not have a messy divorce.

I can still remember the first few weeks as a single mom; the surreal feeling of coming home after work, hesitant, wondering what emotions to expect from myself and my kids. It was a scary time for everyone. I did the best I could giving them attention, smooches, and hugs as often as possible and kept an open dialogue with them about how they were feeling.

OK

It was extremely important to me, and something I considered the top priority as a single mom, that I keep stability for my daughter and son, and maintain certain traditions.  I felt that doing so was our best hope of managing through these domestic changes.

One of the major ways we kept tradition was through a daily shared-meal ritual.  My kids and I had meals every evening, and breakfast and dinner on the weekends.  They helped with various meal activities such as shopping, carrying the groceries in from the car, setting the table, and helping to prepare the food (in age-appropriate ways).  Over a shorter time than I originally expected, I felt us finding a new way of being together.  Although we certainly had not wished for the circumstances of divorce to bring about such changes in our home, we were getting through it and finding our way.

I believe our shared-meal practice was a major factor in helping us to feel like we were still a solid, loving, family unit.  Some of my favorite shared-meal memories are from those early years. My kids knew that time was ours, and it was something they could count on.  My ex-husband, my kids and I continued to have special occasion meals as well (such as birthdays, school functions, holidays, other celebrations through the year) and kept communication with one another cordial through the shared-meal times together.

Having a shared-meal ritual provided us with a focused activity in which we could relate and love one another, each and every day. It gave us the overall and lasting feeling that everything was going to be OK, and for this, I am grateful.

To learn more about how a shared-meal ritual can help you, visit my website.

 

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Feb 14th

The feast of Saint Valentine

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Valentine’s Day has deep roots across the globe. In Finland, it’s known as “Friend’s Day”, and in Greece some Orthodox religious traditions celebrate “Hyacinth of Caesarea”  a special saint who “protects people in love.” In the U.K., some regional customs celebrate focusing on children such as in the region of Norfolk, a “character called Jack Valentine knocks on the rear door of houses leaving sweets and presents for children.” Japan has an interesting history around this holiday.  In the 1960’s due to a translation error in a chocolate-maker’s advertisement, women took more of the lead in giving chocolate to men.  Their holiday revolves around giving “the right amount of chocolate to each person.”  There is chocolate (“choko”) exchanged among co-workers which may be “giri” (obligation) and “cho-giri” (ultra-obligatory, ‘cheap’ chocolate) versus a better quality chocolate given to a “hon-mei” (loved one) or “tomo” (friend).

This brings me to something special that I read, in the form of a Slovenian proverb:  “Saint Valentine brings the keys of roots.” This suggests growth, renewal, and connection. 

Valentinesdaytree

I offer that we do not need to wait for February 14 for a one day a year ritual of exchanging roses and chocolates to feel renewed, connected, and grow in our relationships.

 

 

Although I love roses, chocolates and many of the other traditions we have in the U.S. to celebrate Valentine’s Day,  let’s not limit ourselves.

Why not renew our friendships, relationships with our children, our significant others or spouses each and every day of the year?

There’s an easy way to do this, and that is by having the ‘feast of Saint Valentine’ in our homes, once a day, in the form of a shared-meal ritual.

These shared meals don’t need to be formal in order to be special.  A bowl of soup or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich shared with someone you care about can have all the same emotional intimacy with someone you love, and make 365 days of Valentine’s memories.

To create your own daily shared-meal ritual, visit my website.

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Feb 11th

How life ‘overload’ hits at the heart of the matter

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NPR published an article today titled “We Are Just Not Here Anymore” that offers some excellent insights about the way we are experiencing the moments of daily living. [To read the full NPR article, click here:]

Writer Linton Weeks writes: “Whenever we go anywhere, we are — and we want to be — somewhere else simultaneously.”

As David Levy, professor in the Information School at the University of Washington says, technology in and of itself is not responsible for the fragmented way we interact.  Rather, it is a culture focused on efficiency, production, and consumption versus the more relaxed, personal, being-(truly)-in-the moment presence.

Cell

Sherry Turkle, MIT professor and researcher on technology and interaction (and author of a great book called “Alone Together”) challenges us to consider:  “If the people you are with or the event you are attending are not important enough to command your attention, then:  Why. Are. You. There?” 

Living an ‘overloaded’ life hits at the heart of the matter in ways that are challenging the quality of our experiences now more than ever. It’s about connection. It’s about basic human needs and getting true enjoyment from the moments in our lives. Relying (or over-relying as the case may be) on virtual ways to stay connected are a poor substitute for the real thing.

Through daily living, when we don’t have opportunities to be focused and present, when we are constantly pulling ourselves out of one environment or mindset to try to ‘be’ somewhere else at the same time, and when we live in a perpetual state of being occupied and busy, we become fragmented. This is the very ‘fragmented’ world I had in mind when I chose the subtitle of my book.

Yes, as this article points out, using technology in healthier ways will help.  But we must also look at the standards we are setting for ourselves in the company of others, and also find activities that allow us the opportunity to create daily, quality, face-to-face experiences.

Having a shared-meal ritual is one of those daily activities that can help us practice the skills of being focused, present, creating conversation, and pausing this ‘overloaded’ life for just a short time every day. Leaving the cellphones and devices aside during this time will allow us to fully participate and enjoy the experience. 

Enjoying a shared-meal ritual at some point at least once a day is of the most necessary, connection-preserving, full-soul making activities anyone can use today to feel more whole.

I hope you’ll join me in The Shared-Meal Revolution to help preserve this important social ritual.

Read more in my book “The Shared-Meal Revolution:  How to Reclaim Balance and Connection in a Fragmented World Through Sharing meals with Family and Friends” and get lots of information to help develop a shared-meal ritual that works for you by visiting my website:  www.shared-meals.com.

 

 

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Feb 5th

Pasta with pink strawberry sauce?

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One of my favorite memories when raising my kids was one time when we decided to make a new pasta dish together. My daughter Jini was about 12 years old, and she found a recipe in a children’s cookbook.

The recipe called for a regular spaghetti noodle (we substituted a thinner spaghetti  — cappellini) and instead of tomato sauce and parmesan cheese, we used finely chopped fresh strawberries and cottage cheese.

While the cappellini was cooking in the pot of boiling water, we warmed about 2 cups of freshly chopped strawberries in a non-stick pan on the stove. We added about a tablespoon of butter, and gently mashed the softened strawberries enough to get some liquid, but leaving many small berry pieces as well.  While the strawberries simmered and stayed warm, we put the cooked and drained cappellini in a bowl, and my then 9 year-old son John added about 1 cup of cottage cheese (to create some creaminess).  The last step was to add the strawberry “sauce.”  As soon as we added the strawberries, the white cottage cheese turned a pretty shade of pink.

strawberry-and-cream-noodles-5

We laughed and had some fun watching the color turn pink and we talked about how much more red we could make it if we added even more strawberries (although we also realized it might not be creamy enough).  We enjoyed eating it although we agreed we were not ready to permanently replace our beloved tomato sauce.

Sometimes parents may think it’s a hassle to bring their kids in the kitchen because they’ll make a mess, or the process of cooking a meal with the kids will take too long because you may have to take the process a little more slowly.  But I can tell you that my experience was that the times I had/still have with my kids in the kitchen are some of the most treasured moments.  It brought a tremendous amount of excitement to have them in the kitchen right by my side.

Kids can get involved in helping you to prepare a meal in so many (age-appropriate) ways from rinsing fruits, to chopping vegetables, to stirring together a bowl of just about anything.  When you welcome your kids in the kitchen, they have fun, they don’t feel like guests at your family table — they feel a part of the event — and better yet they become invested in your shared-meal ritual.  This interest only helps them to gain that much more enjoyment and good feelings from your shared-meal experience.

To read more about how you can develop a shared-meal ritual that works for your family, visit my websitewww.shared-meals.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Feb 3rd

Forget New Years’ resolutions…it’s all about Revolutions!

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Forget New Years’ resolutions….this year, we’re talking revolutions! 

I am so excited to see some great work going on from Rachel Macy Stafford of the The Hands Free Revolution “letting go to grasp what really matters” http://www.handsfreemama.com/  and Randi Zuckerberg at Dot Complicated  who is “untangling our wired lives” http://dotcomplicated.co/content/2013/01/welcome-to-dot-complicated/

There’s also Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution “educate yourself about food and cooking” — something sorely needed in our fast-food culture. http://www.jamieoliver.com/us/foundation/jamies-food-revolution/about. 

All of these projects speak to our multi-tasking, hyperscheduled culture, and trying to find healthy ways to cope, take care of ourselves and our families.

g9510.20_mindful.indd

Well, here’s a new story just released about another revolution.  Time Magazine just released an article about “The Mindfulness Revolution” (here’s the link): http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,2163560-8,00.html

This article offers that practicing “mindfulness based stress reduction” in our “stressed-out multitasking culture” can give us many health and life benefits from simple stress reduction, pain management, and being able to mitigate distraction, and lack of focus.

Why do these Revolutions excite me so much?  It’s simple: at the heart of my project, The Shared-Meal Revolution, is finding one time a day, every day, when we can connect with others, feel a connecting experience through a shared-meal, and regain control of what matters — our relationships with our friends, family, and feeling joy–everyday.  What results from the practice of a shared meal is a greater sense of wholeness, many health benefits (social, physical, psychological to name a few) and achieving life balance.  Sharing meals matters to us as individuals,  for our network of relationships, and for our community and society. Having a shared-meal ritual to help manage the effects of fast-paced, modern living, is a relevant practice for our times.

If you haven’t yet checked out The Shared-Meal Revolution, please take a moment to visit www.shared-meals.com.

 

 

 

 

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Feb 2nd

TogiNet Radio interview

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Good morning!

I just received a 5.5 minute clip of my recent radio interview for TogiNet radio/AuthorHouse (publisher of my new book, “The Shared-Meal Revolution”)

Click here for a listen:


 

http://shared-meals.com/the-book/

Frontcover

 

 

 

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