My family never participated in the ‘take-out on the way to soccer practice’ lifestyle; even dinner out at a restaurant during the week was unheard of. Nope, dinner time was family time. All six of us would stop reading, cleaning, biking, or avoiding our homework in order to pile around the kitchen table together to discuss our days, laugh, poke fun at each other, and try to ignore the ringing telephone (which Dad refused to let us answer).
There’s something magical about sharing dinner with your family with no outside distractions (TV, phones, and even music weren’t allowed during our dinners together). Even in it’s most monotonous state, family meal time was a welcome anchor from everything else in life that is not constant.
When one of us was missing due to work, band practice, or sports, the table aura always felt a bit off. For me, eating is as much about the experience as it is about the type and quality of food. Good company provides a flavor that rivals even the best balsamic vinegar.
When I moved out of my parent’s house and into a dorm room, one of the things I missed most was family dinner time. Several years later when my then-boyfriend Dave and I moved in together, family meal time started anew. I would usually come back from work to a wonderful, home cooked meal that the two of us enjoyed together. It wasn’t as noisy as the dinners I had with my family, but just as enjoyable; two people breaking bread and sharing stories in the same span of time.
These days, with my husband working an opposite shift, I always dine alone during the week. Although the food I make is definitely more adventurous than the baked chicken breast, cheesy scalloped boxed potatoes, and microwaved green beans I made in high school, it is lacking in company. No matter the flavor, it is just not as satisfying.
Frankly, I like to stand on ceremony when dinner is involved. Having no kitchen table in our small apartment means no matter how much I am looking forward to my dinner, I will consume it alone either from my coffee table in front of the TV or at my computer desk. Not exactly what Norman Rockwell had in mind.
It may not matter to some people, but I see the breakdown of family dinner time as a parallel to the breakdown of families. I’m no Okie from Muskogee, but frankly, the way some kids act these days scares the crap out of me. Having no children of my own yet, I can only promise to try that we will eat dinner together, no excuses, as often as possible. And not let them snort cocaine during recess.
In any case, when I found out that Dave and I would be home around the same time this evening, I jumped on the chance to make dinner for us both. I didn’t use any recipes that rocked the boat–just stuck to classic comfort foods for some good ol’ fashioned home cooking: oven fried catfish nuggets, twice baked potatoes (with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms and romano cheese), and roasted garlic and lemon green beans. Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with going old school.