Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Family Dinner: A Stable Force in Times of Change

School's ending, summer's coming: this time of year is a season of change and is often full of transitions. Honestly, this year for me is so full of transitions that my head is spinning. My son turns 18 in a couple of weeks and will graduate from high school. He will attend college over 1,000 miles away, making his journey away from home very real. My middle daughter is graduating middle school, preparing to enter high school. The distance she will travel is also significant. Instead of a short walk to school on a relatively quiet Brooklyn street, her commute to high school will be via subway to that "big city" in Manhattan. And my mother, who is recently widowed, is planning a reverse-retiree move from Florida to Brooklyn this summer, so as to be closer to her only family, me.

All these journeys to and from home, all these big changes, are exciting, but nonetheless a bit scary and unsettling. Change can be hard, especially when the family structure you've been used to for... I don't know, for-EVER, is changing. Add these emotions to the usual end-of-the-year chaos of school picnics, special ceremonies and extra performances, and you've got A LOT GOING ON.

Family dinner is the one thing that gets us through these upside-down times. We still try to have dinner together 4 or more nights a week, no matter how busy we get. It really grounds us all and gives us a center. Weeknights are the best times for us to eat together as a family, though mealtimes get shortened because the older kids need to do homework and the youngest must fit in bath and bedtime by a decent hour. We rarely get our 17 year old to the table on Friday or Saturday night anymore because he has usually has plans with friends.

This holiday weekend, though, many of his friends were away and it was all five of us at the table with no time pressures or places to run off to. We laughed together, shared a huge bunch of fresh lychee nuts,* and had longer after-dinner conversations than we've enjoyed in a while. Though he would never admit it, I can sense my son is already a bit nostalgic for these family times together. I certainly am.

Really delicious fresh lychee nuts

Knowing how much family dinner has meant to me and my children as I approach my 18th year (!) as a parent, I fully support Aviva of The Six O'Clock Scramble in the Family Dinner Challenge. Many of my readers already have regular family dinners, so it's a great way to show the numbers of people who live this lifestyle. For anyone who is interested in making the commitment to family dinner, but need help getting started (or help keeping your efforts going), The Six O'Clock Scramble is offering great resources including a checklist and recipes.

Sign up here to join in! 
Have dinner together at least 3 times a week for 4 weeks by September 2013!

* The funny story behind the overwhelming amount of lychee nuts in our house: This holiday weekend we went to Chinatown to have dim sum as a family; it had been ages since our schedules aligned so we could go together. We got separated from my husband at one point because he left something at the restaurant and had to go back. As the kids and I maneuvered through the crowded streets, every vendor seemed to have fresh lychee nuts. The kids begged to get them, and I hesitated because they are quite expensive, but eventually I said, "Sure." Soon after we caught up with my husband; of course he had bought a big bunch of lychee nuts too! We all laughed about it as my middle daughter observed, "I feel like this would only happen in my family!" Anyone have any recipes?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Family Dinner & Food Revolution Day 2013: Cook It, Share It, Live It

Celebrate real food on May 17, 2013 and every day! Join the movement!

I have been a big fan of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution cause since he started the movement in 2010. This year's theme Cook it, Share it, Live it aptly sums up the enthusiasm for real food and it's a prefect metaphor for how family dinners can reinforce all the sentiments of the Read Food Revolution philosophy.

COOK IT: Real food begins at home with simple delicious and healthy home cooked meals. Did you know that convenience foods don't actually save that much time in the kitchen? According to a recent study, the time saved with convenience foods is minimal, but that "convenience" can actually undermine family dinner. Convenience food supports the notion that everyone can eat their own food whenever they feel like it, rather than having a family meal together. In short, it teaches kids and ourselves that processed food that's "our way" is better than a shared, cooked meal. Read more about it here: The Atlantic: Serving Convenience Foods for Dinner Doesn't Save Time, March 11, 2013

When you cook food for yourself and your family, you end up with healthier, fresher food, where you control the ingredients. If you are shopping and planning well, the overall price of better food is usually far less than a prepared food options.

SHARE IT: Family meals are not strictly about the food served. It is a time to talk, laugh and bond together as a family. Some research suggests that the conversations that happen around the family table are the key ingredient to a child's success at school and in life. By sharing meals, we remember to slow down and enjoy our loved ones. Food Revolution Day is a good reminder that the dinner table can create a shared community, be it with family or with friends and neighbors.

LIVE IT: The Food Revolution is not about a boring, strict regimen of food, with the idea of pushing food that's just "good for you" medicine you have to take. It is about the GOOD LIFE! Real food-- luscious, delicious, fresh and naturally nutritious-- it is the most wonderful stuff in the world and worth celebrating. Join the Food Revolution because you want to embrace the good life!

Celebrate Food Revolution Day on May 17th, 2013 with a great real food family dinner. Try some of these great recipes

Check out the Food Revolution website and Facebook page to find special events near you.