Dine, people!

Dear friends,

I was watching the Food Network Saturday morning (a favorite activity) and had a nails-on-a-chalkboard experience.

A television cook, who shall go nameless because there’s no need to be unkind, finished preparing her meal and said this: Don’t bother setting the table. Just grab a napkin, maybe set up a TV tray, whatever.

Really? You just invested all that time and care to make meatloaf, baked mashed potatoes and sautéed string beans — all from scratch — and you’re willing to just grab a napkin?

How is it we can worship the food like never before but have abandoned the art of dining?

It made me sad. It made me wish I had a television show so I could proselytize:

Set the table! Dine, people!

I have long believed that family meal time is sacred. A home-cooked meal served on a lovely table in the company of loved ones will cure nearly all ills — nutritional, social, and spiritual.   Delicious food and inspiring tablescapes are the perfect combination for mealtime communions that create lasting memories.

My family dines together several times each week. Sunday is our elaborate meal. I typically cook and bake most of the day, and more times than not, my table is dressed with linens and flowers. During the week, our meals are much simpler — whatever Mr. Mom can whip up that’s tried and true on our list (spaghetti with scratch meat sauce, grilled pork chops with roast potatoes, stuffed green peppers, garden salad with grilled chicken, and sesame noodles are staples for us). But whether it’s at our dining table or our kitchen island, we always sit together. We always eat on real plates, even if we use paper napkins. And we often have dessert, either leftover from whatever I’ve baked on Sunday, or from our stash of store-bought cookies and ice cream.

Maybe grab-and-go meals work for some families, but supper for us is when we connect. When we really talk. When we remember what it means to be a family.

I’m kind of a nut about it, but if the number of kids who have gravitated to our home at mealtime over the years is any indication, I must not be too nutty — because we often seem to have a spare kid or three to feed.

And absolutely nothing makes me happier. A cook is most fulfilled when forks are raised by smiling diners.

With gratitude {for a mother and a grandmother who knew how to cook a proper supper and whose meals are the source of my fondest memories},

Joan, who hopes you’ll click here to head over to Domestic Dilettante for photos and recipes of her most recent Sunday Supper, which is so easy you’ll have plenty of time to set the table

If you haven’t yet watched Worst Cooks in America on the Food Network, you must. The shock, the frustration, the cursing . . . who hasn’t been there in the kitchen? On yesterday’s episode, one contestant kept yelling “My TooFoo is not melting! My TooFoo is not melting.” Because, you know, she thought the tofu in her Asian noodles needed to melt. If you need to feel instantly better about your culinary skills (or enjoy peeing your pants), tune into Food Network and watch the best non-scripted comedy to come along in years.

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Comments

  1. Well, it was kind of clever in a totally ineffective/crazy way of that particular contestant to try and smash her TooFoo into compliance with a spatula. Who hasn’t gotten frustrated enough to try and beat their food into submission at some time or another? It appears to me Flay is having so much fun watching the struggles that he’ll ask to come back whether or not he wins the final battle. (my bet is on Anne FTW).

    As to a beautifully set table? You’d be scandalized to see that in our nearly empty nest, we have converted what was the dining room into a full-on computer/desk habitat times two. We have a teensy table inherited from my in-laws that sits in the living room and pulls out to be dressed for sit down dinners, but that happens rarely these days. I do insist on cloth napkins and use real plates and utensils no matter where we eat, but the gathering around a table is a rarity here.

    OK lady, when’s my intervention? I drive across town to go to this one market, a co-op actually, where I can get the best local/organic/sustainable/groovy produce and protein selection in the state. Then I don’t do almost ANYthing wrt to setting a proper table to serve that lovely food. I use thrift store plates mixed with serving pieces my daughter made in a ceramics class. Help me Obi-Wan Joanobie….

  2. This made me think of you and your approach to Sunday Dinners:

    The pleasures of the table–that lovely old-fashioned phrase–depict food as an art form, as a delightful part of civilized life. In spite of fad foods, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal.

    The late, great Julia Child

  3. Oh my goodness. Some of my best and most delicious memories are eating at Gram’s house. Mainly when she lived on the corner. She would make us the most amazing dinners! (meaning lunch for those of you not fortunate enough to grow up with a southern grandmother). I was always intrigued that she fixed such a huge meal in the middle of the day. What I wouldn’t give to sit down at that little table for two in her kitchen just one more time.

  4. Deb — My intervention is this: set the table once. Once a week, once a month, whatever. The act of doing it will inspire you to do it again at some point. PS: Matching dishes not required. Mine are always mix and match, and vintage (code for thrift store) is preferred.
    Kim — I love that quote! Thanks for sharing.
    Beth — You and me both, cousin!

  5. I sincerely hope all that media hype about family dinners making for smarter, more well-adjusted kids is true, because eating next to a two-year-old every day isn’t making me any more well-adjusted. There are days I can definitely see the attraction of feeding the kids early and having an adults-only meal after the kids are asleep. But, well, I like to eat early myself, and I’m too lazy to serve more than one dinner a day.

    Anyway.

    We always use real plates, napkins, and place mats. Why not? It’s not as if it takes any more time. Well, maybe the dishes take more time than throwing away paper, but if we always use real dishes in a house with no dishwasher, no one else has an excuse.

Trackbacks

  1. […] not been blogging about Sunday Suppers for more than two years, but my family will attest that we still eat lovely meals I’ve prepared on tables set with china and linens most Sunday nights. I have an insatiable appetite for collecting dishes and linens and I figure my […]

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