Some of my happiest memories were made around our kitchen table. We had a big thick wooden table with four chairs and a bench in the back. We still have it, actually. We lived a sweet life around the kitchen table.
My mother cooked every day except Friday and Saturday. My parents had a sandwich shop, so we ate from our store on those days. And then on Sunday, my mom made a big Irish pot roast supper. We had our family Sunday supper at 1:00 p.m. after church. Sunday evening was my dad’s responsibility, and he usually made eggs. Anything with eggs was his specialty. Potatoes and eggs, pepperoni and eggs (if you haven’t tried it, you really should), sweet peppers and eggs, hot dogs and eggs. The man liked his eggs.
The common theme though, was that we all gathered around the kitchen table for family time.
The Importance of Family Dinner
I come from a large family. There were five kids and my mom and dad. My mom’s youngest sister worked for my parents and she and her daughter always stayed for dinner. There were so many of us we ate in shifts.
Most of us had dinner at 5:00 p.m. on the dot every day. Then my aunt would cover the store for my dad so he could come up to eat (our store was in the ground-level basement) and my oldest sister would come home from work, and they made up the 5:30 shift.
That’s why Sundays were so special, because we got to have dinner with my dad. Not that we wouldn’t be hanging around him while he ate dinner during the week, but Sunday was always the best.
As we got older and grandchildren came into the picture, our Sunday dinners got bigger and crazier, with high chairs and dining room chairs dragged into the kitchen for extra seats.
On holidays we ate at the dining room table and the kid’s got the kitchen to themselves. We could hear them laughing from the other room and we let them do their own thing without parental interference. They were good kids so things never got too out of hand. There was the occasional flinging of mashed potatoes, but basically they all got along well. We had special holiday glasses just for the kids, which were big plastic goblets. They still talk about our family holiday traditions to this day, even now that they are old enough to have their own kids.
Developing Good Eating Habits
My mother always made a balanced meal and a big bowl of salad. For some reason we always ate salad at the end of the meal. The first time I went to a restaurant as a kid I was shocked that they served salad first. I still crave salad after a meal instead of dessert, and that’s the way I run my dinner table.
Fortunately, we usually drank water or iced tea with dinner instead of sweet sodas. I can’t imagine how much I would weigh today if I drank soda all the time. I don’t really even like soda because it’s not something I grew up drinking regularly.
My father was Italian and my mother was Irish. Every Thursday was spaghetti night. But all the rest of the days were meat-and-potatoes meals. My mother always made some type of meat, mashed potatoes, gravy, and at least two vegetables and salad. We would have bread and butter on the table. It was all typically American, but very Irish-inspired at the same time.
Other Uses for the Kitchen Table
The Irish side of my family had a real sweet tooth. My mother had three sisters and they would come by the house with a box of donuts or babka bread that had a sweet cheese filling. My mom would make a pot of coffee and they would sit at the kitchen table for hours and laugh and laugh.
In winter when it was too cold to play outside, my friends and I would go to my house, and my mom would make us hot chocolate and we would sit at the kitchen table and do the same thing: laugh and laugh and laugh.
This is how kids learn social interaction. It’s how we pass down traditions. It’s where we learn to share and eat properly. Mealtime should be fun and convivial.
That’s why I think it’s so important to eat home as often as possible. Sure, it’s fun to go to restaurants. But I wouldn’t trade my memories of our kitchen table for anything.
What are your favorite memories of life around the kitchen table? Do you believe it’s important to eat at home regularly?