Not so long ago, the various members of our family had different schedules, and as a result, we were seldom able to eat together. I couldn’t help feeling that our family was drifting apart—especially since visiting an Italian friend who taught me what a joy “breaking bread” together can be.
A meal in an Italian home is an event. It’s not about grabbing a quick bite on the run; rather, it’s a time to swap stories, to chat, to debate, to share hopes and wishes. Then, just when you think the meal is finished, another delicious dish is set in front of you. Before you know it, two hours have gone by, and maybe many more. No need for any other evening entertainment; the meal is an event in itself.
We may not often have the opportunity to indulge in an Italian-style feast, but even in our busy lives, surely we can find a way to share a meal. There is a lot of research that supports the benefits of families eating together.1 The opportunity to talk over a meal strengthens bonds, creating warmth, security, and a sense of belonging. A home-cooked meal is likely to be more nutritious and cheaper than fast food. Younger members of the household learn manners—asking to pass food, not putting elbows on the table, and eating slowly all contribute to the pleasant experience. Language skills are reinforced as we listen and tell stories around the table. Eating together also increases the whole household’s awareness of food preparation—another great way of giving the children a good start in life.
No matter the composition of your household—even if you’re alone—taking time to stop and enjoy your food is going to be good for your digestion and emotional well-being.Meals are also a great time to pray for our specific needs and show appreciation to God for what He’s done.
My visit to Italy has inspired me to commit to calling our family together at mealtimes as often as possible. What we get is a lot more than just the food. We receive bonds of love, joy, and togetherness that will last.
1. E.g., http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1061