When I was growing up, my family ate dinner together almost every single night. It didn't matter if my three siblings and I had back-to-back soccer practices, we would wait until everyone was home for the night to gather around the dinner table together. It was around that table that inside jokes were created, daily learning was downloaded, and our family discovered how to know and love each other without distraction. To this day, I hold the stories and songs (yep, the singing is a family thing...) composed around that table close to my heart.
It's this experience that has created within me a deep value for communal eating. Even when it's just me and my sweetheart grabbing a simple dinner at home, there is something sacred about the communion that we experience, something set apart from the rest of our daily routine.
The connection that we experience when we share a meal with someone -- without distraction or haste -- is intimate and telling. It's why we gather in the dining room for holidays or meet at a coffee shop to catch up. The sharing of a meal is a sharing of souls, and it has the power to inspire, enliven, even heal. And the research backs it up -- with families who frequently eat meals together showing better nutrition and fewer symptoms of depression than those who eat out or in front of the TV.
But the quality of the meal and interaction matters, too. When we scarf up our meals together in front of the television or grab a quick bite of fast food, when we sit down to dinner and rest our smartphones on the table beside us or barely chew, inhaling our meals -- we miss what is so sacred about the space (not to mention the nutrients our bodies desperately need).
Slowing down, enjoying our meal and the company (even when we dine alone), opens us up for magic to happen. Intimate conversation, pleasurable eating (rather than the sticky, guilt-drenched, and all-too-familiar emotional eating), and community are born -- providing healing for our bodies and souls and fulfilling our most fundamental needs. This spring, inspired by my love for mindful and communal eating and fueled by the coming summer sun, I'll be posting some of my favorite recipes to be savored and shared. The question is: Your family, a friend, your lover or just your whole self... who are you inviting to dinner?