To Eat or Not to Eat

May 14, 2010
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I never knew how important family dinners were. In my household, dinner was a time when everyone had to be at the table before we eat. But after a few years, things changed.

In past times, my family would gather around the table to eat, socialize, and enjoy the company of each other. As my mother began cooking for dinner, the scent of soybean stew would hover in the air. It seemed like a daily routine when my sister and I would help my mom set the table and spoon the rice into individual bowls. After everyone sat around the wooden rectangular table, we would have a quick word of prayer then dig into the many side dishes my mother prepared. Korean dinners usually consist of numerous side dishes to eat with a bowl of rice so my mother would make different assortments of sides. Spiced vegetables and roots, sautéed vegetables and fresh lettuce to use as wraps would cover the table. The food was delicious but the company was even better. Even though we were eating, dinner time served as a social occasion. We would talk about everything from what we did that day to the stresses we experienced in school or work. Problems would unfold and recover all under the forty minutes we spent together. I remember one time when my father wouldn’t let my family start eating because my brother was not present at the table. We waited twenty minutes around the table until my brother showed up. Only after he sat down did my family initiate dinner. The value of eating together was important to my family and as I grew older, I held to those values.
My sister is in her third year of college and she has been away from home for those three years. Although her caring and concerned personality was not present at the table, eating dinner as a family was still a norm. My mother would cook her Korean dishes and my family would sit and enjoy each others’ presence. We still engaged in each others social lives and problems.







Starting this year though, the importance of eating together began to diminish. It wasn’t me or my brother that broke away from the ritual but both my parents. My mother started eating earlier in the day so she refused to eat again. My father decided to make new decisions about eating healthy and skipped dinner altogether. The value of eating together melted away in their minds. Although it sounds as if I am being melodramatic about something that happens once a day, to me, I feel as if a part of my daily schedule was cut out. Family dinners are important to me because it is a ritual, a habit that I learned to love and I wasn’t ready to break from a habit that was helpful to me.

Eating with my family is a catharsis and I believe my other family members have lost this sense of support because they are blinded by the happenings in their own lives. Family is still significant and a top priority to my parents and siblings but the value that my parents taught me of dinner was definitely changing. Our family spent every night under the fluorescent lights to have dinner and now it was my brother and I. At times, I would eat by myself since I started working at nighttime. There is a sense of loneliness as I look at the empty seats and eat what I prepared myself. The Korean dinners my mom used to prepare is replaced with simple foods. But the food isn’t the main point of my dilemma. The problem is how the people around the table, my family, are not present, even on days I don’t work. Family dinners mean family members coming around the dinner table to serve as therapists for each other. I know that if therapists aren’t present for a client, the client can become damaged emotionally, socially and physically.

I read an article on the value of sharing meals on a website called iVillage. The author, Gary Peterson, mentions how family dinners teach the intangible worth of the relationships with family. Eating dinner together creates a bond, a trust and a commitment with the ones we love. She compared the “spirit” of a family to the soil in a garden. In order for the soil to support life, it has to be fertile. In order for a family to be fruitful as the fertile soil, it has to have love and a solid foundation of trust. I found the metaphor that Peterson mentioned of family dinners indubitable. Without that trust and love, a family wouldn’t be able to function. Now that family dinners are occasional instead of daily, I try to cherish those rare moments every time we sit around the table.
Many simple things in life are often overlooked. It’s difficult to realize that those simple things you have or experience is so beneficial to life. I now understand why some people want to go back to the past, but unfortunately, it can’t be granted.





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Bethani said...
May 28, 2010 at 10:38 am
I understand. My family used to have a family game night and then my mom said we didn't need to have family game night once a week anymore. I felt like part of weekly routine was missing. 
 
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