If your kitchen table is anything like mine, it has many roles in your home. It functions as a desk by holding mail, bills, invitations and advertisements. It is a landing place for a heavy purse and leather briefcase at the end of a long workday. The kitchen chairs pose as clotheslines for freshly washed linens that cannot be placed in the drier which makes for an awkward conversational piece when you have dinner guests over and are frantically removing clean panties from kitchen chairs as they arrive.
Dinnertime in our house often consists of pushing all of our belongings on the table to one side and attempting to clear space for our dinner plates. I don’t know why, but having things on the kitchen table has always been a pet peeve of mine. I guess I want the table to always be a welcoming place for someone to come and rest and to be nourished at any given time. Not a crowded fast food restaurant where the bar hop has to anxiously wipe the table before anyone can be seated.
Recently, my husband and I went shopping for a dining room table. We were looking for something big, a table that could seat lots of friends and family. We walked around the furniture store discussing options and comparing our preferences. He liked strong and sturdy wooden chairs with a matching distressed bench. I preferred soft and warm cloth chairs that invite someone to stay for deep conversation and laughs long after the meal is over.
We compromised and left that day with a long wooden distressed table, five strong and sturdy wooden chairs with a bench and two soft and warm cloth chairs for the ends of the table. We weren’t sure how it was all going to fit in the dining room, but we would make it work.
It wasn’t two days later when I talked my husband into going back and looking for more cloth chairs for the table. I had arranged and rearranged and just wasn’t feeling the wooden and cloth chair mix. We drove back to the store and the people started to recognize us, commenting that we were back so soon. We stood in the back corner of the store discussing options and reviewing prices. I looked like a little kid begging quietly for her parent to get her a lollipop at the checkout. We agreed to the additional cloth chairs, or at least my husband gave in, and after making our purchase and loading the chairs into the truck, I promised to stop following the furniture store on Facebook (considering that’s how all of my purchases from this store started).
We got home and once again arranged everything just perfectly with a wooden centerpiece holding dark green moss balls and six straw circular place mats to go around the table.
Since that time, we’ve had small dinners for two with homemade pizza and a bottle of wine. We’ve hosted family for Mother’s Day with a roast and sides and have had friends over on multiple Friday nights to grill out in the summer and catch up around the table.
In her book Bread and Wine Shauna Niequist talks about the importance of gathering loved ones around your table. She says, “Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love because food is one of the ways we love each other and the table is one of the most sacred places that we gather.”
I loved her book so much that I am currently re-reading it (I never re-read books) and have the above quote painted on a distressed piece of wood that hangs in our kitchen.
I had never really enjoyed cooking, but always felt that as a dietitian I should. It seemed like everyone I graduated from my nutrition program with ended up on Top Chef or as a food blogger/ photographer. I’d see many fellow dietitians providing cooking demos and recipe ideas and meanwhile I was just trying to figure out how to order my Wal-Mart online pick-up.
Niequest encouraged me to understand the importance of nourishing others and of hosting people around my table. She encouraged me to become more curious about cooking and to show myself grace when meals didn’t turn out as planned.
I find it interesting that in today’s diet culture, we’ve lost the importance of gathering people around the table. We are so controlled by rigid food rules and fast paced schedules that we are no longer taking the time to nourish ourselves and loved ones and to enjoy the satisfaction of a home cooked meal.
I’m intrigued by places like France where people sit at diners for hours eating rich foods and enjoying meaningful conversation. A place where the server isn’t breathing down your neck ready to give you your check so that the next table can be seated. A place where customers don’t walk away feeling guilty after their meal, but are simply grateful for the satisfaction of eating.
Did you know that the United States is one of the only countries where nothing is listed in the Dietary Guidelines about the enjoyment of eating and the pleasure that should be found in food?
I wonder if we are so busy running around frantically over our “obesity epidemic” that we are missing out on the most important part. We live in fear that if we actually enjoyed the food we ate, then we might not be able to stop eating and we might gain weight. So we stick to restrictive diets or fast convenient meals and we go about our lives.
What if we took the time to clear off our tables and to clear out our minds? What if we slowed down, poured a glass of wine and gathered our ingredients for a new recipe while Frank Sinatra played on Pandora in the background?
What if we invited people over, into our homes and into our lives and shared a meal with them? What if we learned what it meant to properly nourish and care for our bodies while finding satisfaction in eating?
The table has been an important place for centuries. Jesus gathered His twelve disciples around the table at The Last Supper and as he broke the bread He said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” With the cup He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Are you tired of punishing yourself through restrictive diets and rigid rules around eating? Are you tireless trying to keep up with the latest health trend and experiencing a decreased quality of life because of it? Are you worn down, depressed and hungry for more than what food can offer?
Gather around the table.