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Gather Around the Table

by Emery Chapman

In these unprecedented times, many of us have experienced a very different version of our previous lives. Cooking and family dinner may have felt like the last thing we needed. It has been an incredibly overwhelming year, and honestly the idea of getting a meal on the table may have felt like an utterly overwhelming and daunting task.

As a working mom and online teacher, I’m constantly juggling work, homeschooling, a new baby and the endless—and I mean endless!—cleaning, laundry and cooking with so many at home. Without fail, family dinner carries us through and saves us just a bit every night. When we share a meal that we’ve made together, something really important happens. Even if it’s the simplest, quickest meal ever, it creates a better connection, a depth and some sort of extension of a landline to one another. The magic lies in the gesture, the fleeting moments around that table. It’s a way of saying “I’m listening,” “I’m here,” “Let’s pause.”

Over the past year, I’ve noticed more people started cooking. Some began to feel healthier, and some families started to reconnect over a meal for the first time in years. The act of slowing down to chop fresh herbs or vegetables steadied us and quieted the mind. For some, it even helped us reconnect with nature, by reminding us to appreciate where our food comes from, and, essentially, where we come from. Some of us began to feel just a bit closer and more connected to one another, and we started to uncover and rediscover each other in a way our previously busy lives wouldn’t allow.

These have not been easy times. For many there has been unsurmountable loss, grief, food scarcity and economic, social and political upheaval. No one has been untouched by the current world we are living in and that is something we can all agree on. Easy, delicious recipes for the busy family that everyone will enjoy is something that brings us all together, even for a brief time. As a mom with a baby, a tween and a teenager, I know that juggling can be tough. Most meals I’m standing, but family dinner is non-negotiable. It is the one time we always sit down without gadgets and connect with one another.

If there is anything I’ve learned through this time, it is about the rediscovery of what’s important, and what we need to hold on to. It has made me reflect on the fragility of life and the preciousness of time. Family dinner can be a powerful time to pause, share and connect through food and conversation.

It is through these conversations and connections that a collective shift begins—and it begins in the home. So maybe, family dinner is actually the saving grace we didn’t know we needed until the world slowed us down.

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