So I am back home after a whirlwind trip in Seattle including three days at the International Food Bloggers Conference, and one in which we tooled around the different neighborhoods in Seattle and did a little shopping as well. I was able to keep A Boston Food Diary well updated while the conference was happening, however since leaving Seattle, I have had time to truly think about what was covered.
One of my favorite features of the conference were the lively discussions between the attendees. Each day we joined into presentations that would stir the pot of ideas and opinions. After, and during, Twitter and our conversations, would be full of lively debate about these topics, getting to the bottom of how each should be dealt with. The first night struck a chord with me, and centered around a portion of our first presentation and subsequent discussion featuring Morgan Spurlock. Spurlock is probably best known for the amazing 2004 film- Super Size Me, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. If you haven't seen the movie- see it. The basic theme is an experiment wherein Spurlock eats McDonald's, and only McDonald's, every meal for thirty days. During this time, he closely monitors what this type of diet does to a body, and also explores why these foods are so bad for us. It is an amazing study, one that I believe is incredibly valuable, however I'm thrilled that someone else completed it :-). However, during his open forum discussion on Friday evening at the conference, he spoke more about applicable healthy living standards today, the inclusion of fresh vegetables and real foods, and the topic of family meals. It is the latter that proved to be the most interesting to me, as I am shocked that this idea seems to be falling by the way side.
I remember, when I was growing up, there was no other option than a family dinner. Every night we sat together, ate a meal lovingly cooked by my mother, at at the table, shared our news of the day, and then my sister and I would wash the dishes (she washed- I dried). It was a routine for sure, but it was steady. It was a time that we could count on every evening where we gathered as a family. I don't want to be naive, but I'm not completely sure why this seems to have been lost amongst families today. I understand that times are busy, and we all tend to run from one thing to the next, but does this mean that we have to lose out on a family meal?
Full disclosure- I am not married, and I don't have children. I am fully aware that the demands of parenting are monumental, and I have the utmost respect for everyone who has chosen to raise a family. I am saddened though, by the idea that, as as a society, we have all become so busy that it is more uncommon than not now to share the last meal of the day with one another.
Food is a bonding element. It is a required source of energy that we must all ingest, so we all, in some way, make time for it. By their very nature, meals are the easiest way to share time with others. Whether it's a first date, a reunion among friends, or an informal business meeting, meals are an easy way for us to meet, face to face, discuss the matters of life between us, and explore our thoughts and ideas.
The dinners that I remember at home were always occasions when I knew that we could discuss whatever happened at school that day, who said what to whom, and concerns about upcoming tests or exams. It was a time when we stopped and caught up on every little thing that was happening in life. Talking through each of these items made it easier to process them, and enforced the fact that I had a support system in my family. Whenever I was sad about the mean girl in my class, or concerned about a science test, I had my family to go over my options with and determine my best course of action. Honestly, I can't imagine growing up without it.
Studies have determined that the positive outcomes of meals shared together can influence healthier eating habits in children, and can diminish the occurrence of teens smoking and drinking. These practices, when learned early in life, can last throughout adulthood making for a healthier society.
Looking at my life today, and those around me, I know that we all have challenges to face. I wonder though, what is more important than time spent together? And if it isn't possible to have dinner as a family each night- what other ways are out there to create this same type of daily bonding?