“If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth and eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life, your roots, and that is meditation. If we chew every morsel of our food in that way we become grateful and when you are grateful, you are happy.” Thich Nhat Hanh
My mother always instilled family dinners and eating together so, when I left home, it was really one of the most noticeable differences of being alone. Now with my daughter, I see how easy it is to fall into the trap of eating separately. Although my cooking is not particularly amazing, we have both worked on setting time aside to be with each other. It’s a time to talk, to reflect on the day and on recent events – where serious or banal.
Sadly, many families no longer eat together despite knowing that , not eating together has negative effects both physically and psychologically. Research shows that Americans rarely eat together , with the average American eating one in five meals in a car and the majority of families eating together less than once in a week.
Data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found that students who did not eat regular family meals had a much larger truancy rate and were also 40% more likely to be overweight.
In many countries though, mealtime is still sacred. In France, most employees are given at least an hour for lunch as it is not acceptable to rush a meal. In many Mexican cities, townspeople eat together in central areas and in Cambodia, villagers spread colourful mats and bring food to share.
Alice Julier in her book “Eating Together” makes another extremely valid point when she argues that dining together can radically shift people’s perspectives. “It reduces people’s perceptions of inequality, and diners tend to view those of different races, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds as more equal than other social scenarios.”
So is there a solution? Yes, but it is one which will take effort and discipline from both the parents and children. Children need to sit down without electronic devices – and needless to say, that goes for parents too. Parents need to take a genuine interest in their children’s day – and listen to them while they voice their thoughts. The response from a child who is heard is heartwarming.
Children should be given smaller quantities of food rather than having a huge pile of food. It must be so daunting to be told “You must eat what’s on your plate before you can leave the table.” The idea is not to ‘punish’ the child but to encourage it to savour the food, listen and be heard. Parents should also not be running around trying to put a spoonful of food into the child’s mouth – (I’ve witnessed this so many times in Cyprus especially)-they will never learn how to behave in a restaurant. But eating out with children is a whole other subject for next week!
Until then, take care and remember Hippocrates “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
Cyprus International Food Festival
23 & 24 September 2017
4pm – 10pm/late