Growing up, I ate dinner with my family every night around the kitchen table—the same one that still sits in the kitchen of my parents’ house today. Each Sunday after church, we ate a home-cooked Sunday dinner at my grandparents’ house (dinner = lunch for any non-Southern readers out there). Our family of four plus my grandparents sitting around a long table passing around southern style vegetables and pot roast. I have wonderful memories of those meals and conversations.
As a single adult, I don’t often sit at the table to eat. Sometimes I do, but I’m usually accompanied by a book or a laptop. Occasionally, I have friends over for dinner but not as often as I should. This weekend was a great reminder of why I should make the effort more often.
We were celebrating the birthday of one of my best friends this weekend, so I invited my friend C and her younger sister over for supper at my house on Saturday night. I planned an entire menu—a home-cooked meal of crab cakes, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, romaine salad with mandarin oranges and blueberries, rolls and a pie for dessert. It was so much fun to prepare a meal for my friends!
The table in my dining room (shown above) belonged to my grandmother—the same table where my dad ate dinner growing up, where I ate countless Thanksgiving dinners as a child, and where my mom and dad awkwardly sat as a dating couple while my mom attempted to make an extra-large hamburger disappear into her nervous stomach. Before my friends came over on Saturday, I set my beloved table with care. I lit candles; I used the best plates, silverware and glasses. I wanted to create a special ambiance for them.
C’s younger sister, B, is a freshman in college. Now that I have a home of my own, it’s easy to forget those days of dorms and cafeteria food. B was so excited to enjoy a real meal at a real table. When she texted her friends back on campus to tell them everything about the meal, I realized that my simple dinner was a big deal to her.
And I remembered those days in college when I lived on Captain Crunch cereal and rice with soy sauce. I remembered those days when I could not even imagine cooking a meal for myself, much less inviting people over for dinner. When I saw how much it meant to B, I made a decision. I will not let that dining room table continue to remain empty 95% of the time.
I want to carry on the tradition of my grandmother’s dining room table—a table where you come as you are, where you will feel loved, where you will laugh and eat until you’re stuffed. A table where, if you don’t finish everything on your plate, someone will surely ask, “What’s wrong? Are you in love?”—just like my grandmother asked me every single time I left anything uneaten on my plate.
What were some of your childhood mealtime traditions?