It's Beyond What's on the Plate

June 7, 2012
By Rachel Honigman BRONZE, Briarcliff Manor, New York
Rachel Honigman BRONZE, Briarcliff Manor, New York
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Nuclear family- (noun) a couple and their dependent children, regarded as a basic social unit. A mother takes on the role of the caretaker but can easily be a best friend. A father is known as the bread winner but can come to be comic relief. A sibling is known to be a nuisance but can become an ally against all odds. Families can simply be people living in the same house but when quality time is spent together, a “basic social unit” turns into the most constant and precious thing in life. I believe that family dinner transforms not only people into a family but also a house into a home.
The rectangular, oak table that fits snugly by the bay window of my kitchen has been the setting of some of my most cherished memories. It has endured countless spills by enthusiastic friends, watched me learn my manners, and has facilitated my most valued belief-- family dinner. Almost every night of the week, my family and I sit down to a wholesome meal and discuss our day. This time has taught me to never let anyone eat alone, the way things are said is more important than the words themselves, and listening is just as important as speaking. Spending no more than an hour a night with my family has created an irreplaceable bond.

For a long time I had no idea how important family dinner was to me. At lunch one afternoon, my friend asked what I was eating. I responded, “Leftovers.” I had a salad with grilled chicken, tomatoes, mozzarella and balsamic vinaigrette. She quickly looked down and pushed around her watery Kraft macaroni and cheese and said, “Same.” She said that her parents are rarely home for dinner so she makes whatever is in the house. Until that point, I had always believed that every family sat down to a home cooked meal like I did.

At seven o’clock that same night, my family and I sat down to dinner and I thought of my friend. What was she eating right now? Was anyone sitting with her? In that moment, I realized how lucky I am. Unlike many others, I am blessed to have two loving parents who carry out traditions and hold essential values. Not only do they create a stable environment, but they allow for open discussion and a deeper family connection. A table may just be a table and four people may just be four people, but when combined, family dinner is not merely four people at a table. Ronald Reagan once said, “All great change starts at the dinner table.” Although I am not changing the course of United States history, my family values are changing me into the young lady I am today and the woman I one day hope to be. I believe in the power of family dinner.

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