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Do you remember when you were a kid and how nightly dinners were an all-out event? Everyone came to the table dressed nicely, and there was a beautiful meal prepared with a main dish, vegetables, and other various sides, and then you would visit and catch up over the day’s happenings. This, sadly, is no longer the case (and it shows!), with many meals consumed on the go, in front of the TV, or with everyone’s face buried behind a screen. I pine for the days of my childhood family dinners, which is why I put together this throwback of how family dinners used to be before the world got so crazy.
How family dinners used to be
If you are a grandma like me, you don’t need me to tell you how family dinners used to be, as you lived them, too. Going out to eat or grabbing takeout on the way home was not as common a luxury as today, so our mothers would prepare a feast every night. During the day, she would prep as needed, and then she’d begin to put it all together at 4:30 on the nose so that it would be on the table just as daddy walked through the door. Once he was home, we would greet him and begin setting the table while he took off his jacket and cleaned up. Then we said grace, dished up, and began devouring another of our mother’s beautiful meals.
Easy heat and serve meals and frozen pizzas were not a thing when I was young, so every night, we were nourished with something made-from-scratch. Everyday meals from our childhood included meatloaf, fried chicken, pot roast, Salisbury steak, stroganoff, casseroles, ham, and pot pies. While this sounds like a feast on its own, there was also an abundance of sides that could sink a medium-sized vessel (a la starches, vegetables, bread, and some sweet or savory casserole-esque item).
Did I mention that families not only enjoyed dinner together, but also a ginormous breakfast with eggs, bacon, potatoes, biscuits, and so on?
Setting the scene (and the table)
Is it just me, or do Generation Z-ers and Millennials NOT know how to set the table properly? I feel as though our generation learned this early on, as it was the kids’ job to set the table with our nice dinnerware (none of these paper plates you see today!) and silverware (napkin and fork on the left, butter knife and spoon on the right with the water glass just slightly above the plate and centered between it and the utensils).
Not only did the table need to make an appearance, but so did we, which meant we wore our Sunday best when we came to the table. Before we could sit down to eat (mama and daddy at each end, and the kids staggered around the center), we would brush and fix our hair and make sure our clothes looked nice, and then help mama with anything that needed to be set on the table. While some kids dreaded the pageantry of it all, I enjoyed the time before, during, and after our family dinners. How about you?
The importance of family dinners
While breaking bread (or digging into a massive bowl of goulash) is important, it was the tableside conversation and comradery that made it so special. Thanks to the lack of distractions, families could connect and get to know each other better by sharing their day, their highs and lows, and offering advice or support should anyone else need it. Despite being your immediate family, these dinners also taught us how to successfully communicate with others, as the dinner table was a time for asking and answering questions and active listening.
There was (and still is!) more to family dinners than this, as – for better or worse – it helped us build our bond and connection with our families, thanks to the close proximity and opportunity to speak with limited interruption. According to Stanford Medicine (which, sadly, has to now encourage families to enjoy meals together), we received even more benefits from sharing meals as a family, including general expectations, self-esteem building, and manners.
Is anyone else ever so glad they were raised on family dinners? Were your dinners like mine? I would love to hear more about it! Now, if you will excuse me, I suddenly have a craving for my mama’s old meatloaf recipe and need to run to the store. Talk soon!