I am beginning to believe in the promise of the home-cooked family meal. It may be because it is the most unconditional form I have seem commitment take, it maybe because the passage of time, the onset of middle age, the arrival on the scene of two boisterous children, has lent a romantic hue to the least glamorous chore of my youth. It is even possible that I am constructing an argument against my chief profligacy, to bolster the one new-years resolve I can’t seem to keep– to eat out less often.
In any case, we humans are given very humble yarns with which to spin the tapestry of of our brief lives– a few returning needs, a handful of connections we call family, an allotment of a hundred summers if we’re lucky, and a nagging, uncertain feeling that each young life has a promise to keep and a purpose to fulfill.
Hunger is one of those basic, returning needs. In part nature, and in part custom, disposes each of us not only individually to crave refection every three or so hours, but also all of us, collectively, to desire company with which to imbibe, partake, and enjoy the satiation of this need. I don’t write this to claim beatitude for for the culinary trade, vital though it is to the health of the economy. I admit that there is nothing heroic or sublime about chopping vegetables, and no spirituality attends the repeated washing and stacking of dishes. I have suffered through the strains of lunchtime disagreements, fought off my share of distasteful dishes, and harbored secret fantasies of five course meals in ostentatious restaurants. Eighteen years I spent in my fathers house, and I must’ve skipped a home-cooked meal, for one at a restaurant, eighteen times. Each of those eighteen years, those over eighteen thousand meals, the predictable rhythms and sounds, bustle and smells of my mothers cooking kept bringing simple, healthy, and mostly tasty meals to our table. We kept needing and, without asking, without conditions, she kept providing. There was always a genuine joy, a deeply felt satisfaction, behind all her caregiving. Long afterward, from grad school, I would email her, telling her she the north pole of my happy years at home. She accepted the complement with a ready “I know”, but I wonder if she really did.
If I can claim a hundred summers for myself, those eighteen, when I had unquestioned claim at the family dining table will remain the most precious. I can stand back and see a meaningful pattern come together on the tapestry of my childhood memories.
Now, when we are bringing up our two boys, my wife and I constantly search for ways to make our children’s youth special and memorable, we forget the power of the simple ritual of eating home-cooked meals together at the family dinning table.
I have always KNOWN that home-cooked meals tend to be more healthful, I have always FELT that family dinners nourish family bonds; but the knowing and the feeling is only now beginning to come together into a belief. I am beginning to believe in the promise, of the home-cooked family meal, to build a family, and a tranch of happy memories.
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