Making dinnertime family time

Friday, December 28, 2012   |   Posted by Jim Hightower
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Periodically, we're treated to the spectacle of a corporate big shot or public official having to announce their resignation due to having been caught doing something messy (usually involving sex or money). Almost invariably, they say: "I'm stepping down to spend more time with my family."

Aside from generating snickers, snorts, and guffaws from the public at large, that comment probably causes many people to wince, because… well, because many of us don't spend enough time with our families. We're busy, stressed, stretched – too little time.

So, here's a suggestion that would make a dandy New Year's Resolution: Do dinner with your family. Yes, that includes the kids. The gathering, preparing, and eating of food is a natural social uniter. Yet, too few of us these days make a point of gathering our households around the table for an hour or so, not merely to eat, but to talk, listen, laugh, learn – connect.

In her book, The Family Dinner, Laura David notes that this shouldn't be a big production. Start with one night a week, make a simple meal (a soup, casserole, salad, or even carry-out), and then go from there. Some of her other tips are: (1) make this hour gizmo free – no TV, iPads, or other rude diversions; (2) involve everyone in some part of the food preparation, so dinner becomes "theirs;" (3) make it fun by experimenting with different foods or occasionally turning dinner into a picnic, maybe with one of the kid's friends; and, (4) start talking.

Number four is the whole point, for telling stories, exploring ideas, and generating actual conversation around the table is a bonding experience that makes "spending time with one's family" a rich experience. To help prompt real discussions, Laura David posts a lively "Table Talk" idea every Friday at www.huffingtonpost.com/parents.

"The Family Dinner," Edible Austin, Winter 2012.

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