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What is in a meal anyway?

Updated: May 25, 2023

In short, the past, the present and the future. Sharing a meal isn't just a means to bring nourishment to your body, it's a group activity and experience. Eating together is one of the ways you create memories together. When we choose to nourish another person through food, we give them the invaluable reminder that we aren't meant to walk through life's joys and sorrows alone.

I was reading an article from Stanford Medicine in regards to “Why the family meal was important” they noted that families are busy today. Maybe more than ever as the isolation from the pandemic shutdowns proved extremely hard for most families. The article noted “(a)lthough family dinners are viewed by some people as another burdensome chore at the end of a tiring day, more American families realize that the benefits of sharing time at day's end cannot be measured by calories alone.”

The meal is a place for the whole family (or friends) to unwind, to process, and to reconnect with each other. When a meal is shared it is a gift and sometimes the most precious gift given to each other. So many healthy things have been known and proven to come from a shared meal. Mental health is shown to improve, knowing we are not alone and surrounded by those who care and love us. Also, healthy weight and portion control, more balanced meals and trying new flavors and foods. How to communicate with each other, valuing each other's thoughts and experiences.

What a list of values, a simple meal can give, even if it’s not always the healthiest or perfectly balanced. However, families are busy, our lives are busy and crazy and already so complicated. How on earth are we supposed to add yet another time consuming item to the list? I’ll be honest, it’s hard. I mean I have a lot of mouths to feed and really… I fed them yesterday, do they really need to eat again? I’ve tried to meal plan, batch cook, and it works for a week or so but…then…life. It’s hard. But my kids eat better when we all sit down together, I notice things they do, better I’m more attentive, I can read between the lines with my teens better. When we have friends over, we laugh more, the weight, the pressure is lifted for a while. I see what a meal gives to us all. We still get stuck in ruts of a handful of quick meals the family will eat, but we eat and we talk… about how this is all we eat, ha ha

My husband Dan enjoys watching “Dinners, Drive ins and Dives” and it (well the concept many of the food network shows are based on) sparked an idea for our home. One person goes to the freezer and picks out one or more items then the person who is in charge of cooking the evening supper then must create a meal around that item. Sometimes it's really good and sometimes it's very creative (which is why we now have the rule that you must find a recipe to cook from vs self creations). This method get us out of the rut and helps us eat what we already have. We cook at home for all of our meals so planning is a must, or it’s a hamburger night because we can thaw a few pounds of ground fast. Our family is busy too, we have the farm chores, customer pick up days, pizza club, the kids have extracurricular activities too, so I get how busy life is. As a kid, we always ate together, if we couldn't be home there was usually a ham sandwich or pb&j on the go for us, but we ate even a quick meal together. As a kid I never thought much about it, eating out was so special then. I look back now and I value that love that went into making sure we ate together, even on the go.

I value my crockpot and could kiss whoever created slow cooker liners (I swear they saved my marriage), and now I dearly love my instapot (after I resisted it for so many years) they each have a special place in my kitchen tool box. These tools save the day when there is just too much busy to have anything out of place, of course that's usually when a pig gets out or the cows go on walkabout.

So until next time as Marty Stouffer says, “Enjoy our Wild America”.

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