Friday, November 30, 2012

A different angle on eating

I was at a fantastic conference today with dozens of Vermont educators, hearing author Ralph Fletcher speak. I did not leave a cooking lesson in my sub plans! Here's a different angle: my thoughts about mealtime.

Every night when we sit down to eat dinner, my family has a special routine, one my son brought home from preschool seven years ago. At snack time, he and his three- and four-year old friends would hold hands and take a deep breath in and out. Together, they'd chorus, "Thanks for the food." Then they'd munch cracker crumbs all over the large oval wooden table occasionally knocking over paper cups of juice.

My son was impressed with this routine and we quickly adapted it for home use. We do the same hand-holding and deep breath, but our standard line is, "Thanks for the food and the family." Sometimes we say things like, "Thanks for the food and the crazy kids," or "Thanks for the steak and the family" (if dinner is something special like steak). Regardless of adaptations, we have developed a family routine of pausing for a minute before we eat. Without religious overtones, we sanctify our meal.

Over time we've included friends and family in this routine when they've joined us for dinner. Often when we visit relatives, we bring the tradition with us.

Some nights the kids have pushed every limit in the minutes leading up to dinner time and I'm ready to strangle one or both of them. Some nights I'm annoyed at my husband in that unavoidable way annoyance overwhelms you at the end of a long day. No matter what my mood when I sit down at the table, I use that moment of holding hands and taking a breath to remind myself of how much I have, how much I love the people sitting around the table with me.

It may seem like this post is a week late, that this is a topic better suited to the days leading up the Thanksgiving. Instead, let's call it a coincidence that Thanksgiving was last week. Our routine is one for all seasons of the year. It reminds us every day -- not just on Thanksgiving -- to appreciate all that we have.

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