Growing up, I remember that my parents always made sure we ate at the table. Together. At least one meal and it was usually dinner. I didn’t really pay much importance to it till I grew up and moved on and out of home.
Now that I look back, I really appreciate that we all got together at the dining table every evening. It might not have been deep conversations all the time, but just the act of gathering at the table was something we followed pretty much every night. As was tradition, mom would cook, and the three of us would eat! I do remember trying to learn some culinary skills at a young age, more specifically baking, but for some reason my mom did always insist on taking charge of the kitchen and never really taught us how to cook. My sister, however, did go on to become a chef during the early phase of her grown up life, but that’s a whole different story.
As I moved on in life, I crossed the country to study journalism and found two wonderful roommates. Thankfully for me, one of them was a marvelous cook (she still is!) and I remember that we had a small table where we would gather around whenever we were in the house and just talk to each other (pre-mobile phone/laptop days), recount the day’s activities and share our experiences and enjoy our food over a lot of laughter and great conversation. It was also our shared love for good food that was the glue which kept us together in a sense!
During my workshop in France last month, it was a daily practice for everyone—16 of us—to get together and share our meals. Over glasses of wine, there was merry chitchat and a lot of laughter as we shared stories and talked to each other. No phones to disturb us. Everyone was present in that moment.
I recently visited Stephanie in Switzerland, and whenever she was home early, we made sure we set the table and ate our meals together—chatting about various things. Our life’s trajectories have taken us on different paths, but there have been a lot of common trends, and it’s just great to have an insightful conversation about some of life’s lessons. Just talking to each other, over a shared meal, over our love for good food, I realized we learn so much from one another. Stephanie is also easy to please with food, and I found her to be an eager and appreciative subject for all my experimentations. She’s also a great cook herself and whipped up an excellent poha, which I personally find very challenging to get right!
Somewhere along the way, I lost that important practice in my life. Today, the tendency is usually to bury ourselves into some device and eat our meals on a sofa, each to his/her own. It’s as if the food is always secondary to what we’re doing at that point of time—reading the news, catching up on emails, watching a movie etc.
When did that happen, I wonder? Do most families operate this way and have lost the art of eating around a table? I don’t have a large family—it’s just two people—is that perhaps one reason why this practice has died? I can understand that for a single person, there’s not much motivation to do this as a practice, but being present and paying attention to food is still something that I would try and do, if I’m eating a meal on my own.
Of late, I’m trying to be more conscious of what I eat, and if you’ve read my earlier post, you’ll know I’m on a 100 day challenge. I’ve realized that I personally can choose be in the moment, when I’m eating a meal. I’d rather be focusing on the flavors, the texture and the nutrients I’m putting into my body instead of being distracted by a million other things. I’ve decided that when I’m in front of my plate, whenever possible, I will take that time out to enjoy that particular moment to the fullest.
I still like to think that some families do eat meals together; or at least they try. If not around a table, then at least at the same time. Is this a practice that families and couples still cherish?