Family meals mean something different to everyone, but for me it’s any meal that is taken sitting at a table, preferably with good company, good food and good conversation. No, the office desk is not a table and Twitter/Facebook/Instant Messaging is not good company, but will do in a push, there might be something to be said for video chat although I’m not so sure I want to be on the receiving end even if I’m eating at the same time.
There are a lot of reasons that this ‘Family’ style of meal has evolved in numerous different cultures through the centuries and not all of them are down to practical reasons like the lack of a microwave to re-heat a meal, or social reasons the human beings need to talk and bond.
For me the most important reason is the lack of distractions, this allows you time to think about what you’re eating; yes, you may be discussing the news of the day or the meal itself with someone but your attention isn’t focused on the television or your laptop or
This has a number of benefits, not least of which is that you will experience your food rather than simply tasting it. You will consciously think about the textures, flavours and so on. I almost always find myself wanting to talk about how a family meal was cooked and it’s the discussion that slows down our eating (another benefit) and eating slower also means that we generally eat less (another benefit)
This is before we have even thought about the benefit of the social aspect of a family meal. The mere act of sitting and breaking bread together is something that helps bring people together. After all, one of the single best things we can do to improve our mental health is to talk, it’s as much a requirement for healthy living in humans as the food we eat.
You’d think that having a family meal a day would be standard practice for everyone with all these benefits but it’s unfortunately a tradition that is dying out. There are many reasons/excuses given for this, modern life and working hours, the hassle of actually cooking, timing the cooking so everything is ready at once and that old classic, I don’t have the time.
That last one always annoys the hell out of me, if you don’t have time to do something that is so important to your health and well being as eating, well then you’ll never have enough time for anything else.
Timing the cooking of different elements of a meal can be tricky and sometimes I find potatoes taking longer to cook than I expect or cooking much quicker, that’s why we have ovens. More importantly, that’s why we have one pot meals like stews and pies. With a little practice when timing isn’t as critical you will quickly develop skills to get it right more times than not and eventually every time or at least the skills to fake it 😉
The hassle of cooking? Please give it a rest, unless you plan on eating alone then you have people around to help, get them involved as you need. Most people will be only to happy to help and can do a task, like chopping the veg or stirring the pot etc. with only a little input from you. This not only makes the task easier for you, but it shares the skills with others, adds to the social aspect and people who help prepare a meal are far less likely to criticise it and far more likely to enjoy it.
The modern life one, can be a bit of a bugger though sometime people aren’t working the same hours so it can be difficult to schedule, but you should still make the effort to have a family meal as often as possible, if for no other reason than it helps to repair the damage that the modern life and weird hours can have on the human condition.