Bring it to the table

About six months ago, I felt like we’d entered a new stage in our family life. Ona was turning two, Connor was starting kindergarten, and I finally reached a point where I remembered not only do I know how to cook, I also very much enjoy it.

(Apparently I need about 730 days to get my food-making brain back after giving birth, as the exact same thing happened when Connor reached his 2nd birthday. It was a short-lived stage, however, because Ona was conceived soon after and we reverted back to feasting regularly on a variety of Trader Joe’s prepackaged goodies.)

But now, family dinners are in full swing, and we are reaping the benefits. I’m thrilled we are enjoying healthier, home-cooked cuisine almost every night and saving a little money with less restaurant time and meal planning. I’m also digging the creative release I get from trying new ingredients and tweaking recipes to suit our particular tastes and needs.

I have to admit, though, that’s all just (ahem) icing on the cake. It is another little bonus that has really sparked my desire to (forgive me) cook up this master plan of regular table time.

It’s not so much about the dinner as it is about the family. The whole process is something we do together. The kids help prepare the food by chopping, pouring, and stirring. Connor and Cory set the table with the necessary utensils and napkins. Even Ona grabs her own fork (sometimes two) every now and then. Once we sit down to eat, we put away all outside distractions: no phones, no computers, no toys, no books, no magazines, nada.

It’s just us, sharing food and our sparkling wit.

Well, the wit part may be a stretch, I’ll admit. Mostly we end up playing games: The Color Game (everyone takes a turn naming colors without repeating any until we can’t think of any more), The Zoo Game (“I went to the zoo and I saw a {blank}.”), The Superhero Game (Describe a superhero while the rest of the players try to guess the character.), The Dinosaur Game (see The Superhero Game and replace the word ‘superhero’ with ‘dinosaur.’)

Cory and I do, however, attempt to fill each other in on little details of our day during all the delectable diversions. It sometimes gets a little confusing recapping our lives in the midst of shouting out “Lavender!”, reporting a recent sighting of a walrus at the zoo, and asking questions like “Are you a carnivore or an herbivore?” but it all works out.

Another fun development involves my instinctual gravitation towards flavors from my childhood. For example, one of our current favorite desserts is the same pudding sundae my mom made for me and my sisters (one layer chocolate pudding, one layer whipped cream, another layer chocolate pudding, a dollop of whipped cream on top.) I tell the kids about my own mom, who did not buy pudding from the store in a tub like us, but made it on the stovetop. Then she used lovely clear glass sundae cups (I have to find some for us!) to serve, but she made them before dinner and put them on display in the fridge so we had to salivate over them FOREVER. How many times was I scolded for opening the refrigerator door just to glimpse their brown-and-white deliciousness?

When I share this little memory with my own children, they take it all in with big eyes and toothy grins. I try to imagine what their little brains are envisioning: Mommy as a little kid, slurping down dessert and laughing with girl versions of Aunt Jen and Aunt GiGi. I adore the incredulous looks they pass back and forth, with slightly raised eyebrows and crinkled eyes that seem to say, “Are you buying this?”

I remember exchanging those same glances with my sisters, and in a flash I realize I’m witnessing the bonds of siblings form right before my very eyes. How cool is that.

It’s a rare moment of clarity: I am so fortunate to be part of such an awesome family.

In the immortal words of John “Hannibal” Smith, I love it when a plan comes together.

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4 thoughts on “Bring it to the table

  1. Gi February 24, 2013 / 1:53 pm

    mmmmm! They were the best!

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