A tribute to eating at the dinner table

A tribute to eating at the dinner table

For many of us, time is oftentimes of the essence. We don’t have time, we don’t take time, or we just cannot make time. I often recall what one of my sons once told his kindergarten teacher: As she objected that my son was late, still wandering around in the hallway while his classmates were back in the classroom after recess, he candidly replied “time is not important to me”. What a luxury!

A luxury that most of us do not have. Yet, I believe there is one luxury that is so important to strive for, as often as possible, ideally every day: Take time to eat at the dinner table.

The base within the base

If home is the base, the dinner table is the base within the base. It is the best stage where dialogue can happen, with family or friends. I mean dialogue, not communication. Text messages, tweets, emojis, GIFs can take care of communication quite well, but they are pretty useless when it comes to dialogue. In  dialogue, a real exchange, a real interaction between human beings takes place. The subject can be anything: it can be serious, it can be goofy, it can be controversial or even heated, it's okay. What matters is the human two-way interaction.

Growing up in France, I recall those long long meals: table of 15 to 20, cousins, uncles, friends, especially the farmers next door, our neighbors for generations.

Meals could easily be three-hour long. The food was simple, but delicious. It was the ultimate “farm-to-table” experience as we call it today, since the farm was on the other side of our fence. Sometimes, we had very special meals, with the “trou normand”. The trou normand is a non-scientific French tradition of clearing-up your stomach between dishes, by sipping a small amount of (usually home-made) fruity liquor. Being able to participate in the “trou normand” as a non-quite-yet adult was a privilege.

Any topic of discussion

As far as topics of discussions were concerned, adults passionately talked about pretty much anything: politics, or what was in the plate were equally important and recurring subjects, the weather also was getting a lot of air-time, and a myriad of topics that sounded super important to the kid that I was, but probably were not. In general, it was not uncommon to hear the grown-ups lament about how things used to be so much better back then…Kids talked also, and laughed, until we were bored and asked to leave the table. On lucky days, we were authorized to watch TV. The choice was limited: three channels only, but already then, any screen-time was an excitement, regardless of content. That was a few decades ago.

These moments are now dear memories. The Thanksgiving meal is a reminiscence of those moments, food-wise a much lighter version believe it or not. Of course, these never-ending meals are not the type one can easily afford today. But the spirit of sharing and talking which was rooted in these meals, might be even more relevant and necessary today, than it was then.

Whether what is in your plate is tasty or not, is besides the point; whether your plate is beautiful or not is even less relevant. This is about connecting with people who matter to you, for three hours, or just a few minutes. Anything more than zero is good.

Bon appétit, and, just as important, enjoy the discussion!