When and why did you start eat2gather.net?
Eating and sharing food with others is my passion. I love to cook, I love to eat out, and at others peoples tables. I love to talk about food…all day long! I am not professionally trained, but I love to try new recipes. I love to think about new recipes that I can develop and test out on my family and then share with my readers. Over time it became evident that my passion was not only getting my family around the table “2gather,» but helping others do the same. Eat2gather is my home, it’s where I get to share and love others with the gift of food!
Where does your passion for ‘feeding those you love’ come from?
I think it’s innate. I’ve always loved to bake and cook, but I think part of it is also learned. I come from a long line of women who took pride in getting a warm meal on the table and gathering their families around it.
What were family dinners like when you were growing up? It was just my sister and I and my parents. My mom worked part time at a department store in the evenings after my dad got home, but she always had a warm meal on the table. My dad would arrive home from work at 5 and we would sit right down for dinner together. Our meals were never fancy or complicated—our family was on a very tight budget—but somehow my mom made the most of what we had. Later, when I was in high school and my mom went back to school to get her college degree in education, I started cooking more.
How old are your four children? Do they look forward to family dinner? Ken and I have four children 17, 15, 14, and 11, two boys and two girls. I think they definitely look forward to dinnertime. They will often ask “What’s for dinner?” in the morning before they leave for school. I take that to mean they are anticipating and looking forward to that time together, as well as the possibility of getting to eat their favorite meal.
What is the experience like at your table? It’s not all sunshine and lollipops—that’s for sure! There is arguing and fighting. We have a no phones at the table rule, which is usually broken by my husband! Speaking of Ken, his schedule is, for lack of a better word: crazy. So dinner is often without dad. I decided early on that whether Ken was able to make it to the table or not, the rest of the family wouldn’t miss out on dinner together. So since the kids have been very small we have made mealtime a priority. Another priority that I set in place when the kids were small was that no matter what mom makes for dinner, you have to try it. Give the cook some respect!
There were years of crying and fussing, but I’m thankful that I stuck to my guns because now all of my kids are «good eaters.» They all have meals that aren’t their favorites, but they will still eat what I’ve taken time to prepare. Training your children to eat healthy and try new things is not easy, but neither is catering to everyone’s whims and being a short order cook. Now that the kids are older the experience for the most part is pleasant. We always start our meal out by giving thanks to God for our blessings, and then usually we dig in. Ken and I try to facilitate some conversation by asking about school, sports and friends. Teens like to eat and run, but we try to keep them at the table as long as possible, which can be hard. I find that if I have dessert or a sweet treat they’ll usually stay longer.
What three pieces of advice would you give to parents who struggle with getting family dinners on the table?
I don’t want anyone to think dinnertime is a breeze for us, but we have made it a priority. It’s just what we do. We believe with all our being that the time spent together around the table is as nourishing to the soul as the food is to the body. We have a busy family so, in reality, if I can get us around the table twice in some weeks I’m doing well! Some weeks it’s more often, and some weeks it just doesn’t happen.
First of all I would say keep trying, don’t give up. Someday you will see the benefits and you will be thankful that you did not give up on this core piece of raising your children.
Secondly, mealtime together doesn’t have to be dinner. It can be Saturday morning breakfast or Sunday lunch. Start a new tradition!
Thirdly, the meal doesn’t have to be complicated; keep it simple, and plan ahead. It’s important to keep trying because family mealtime really matters. I mean really, really matters. When you share a meal with someone, it’s personal, it’s nourishing to your body and your soul. Feeding builds trust. Trusting those you live with is important to proper mental and social health. It’s very hard for a teenager to sit across the table from their family day in and day out and keep secrets and lies from them; eventually things come out. I’ve lived it. The family table needs to be a safe place, it is where we get to practice for life outside of our home.
Can you talk about Meals for Sharing?
Meals for Sharing is the part of my blog where I help others see how they can not only love the people in their own homes with food and meals, but they can show those in their extended families, neighborhoods, communities that they love and care by sharing a meal with them.
Meals for sharing is essentially a guide to help you make it easier for others to get around their tables together. Maybe someone had a new baby, or is ill, or lost a job. Maybe someone new just moved in next door. Whatever it may be, bringing someone a home-cooked meal is always a good idea! I share many recipes that are easy to double so you can keep one for yourself and bring one to another family. It doesn’t have to be a whole meal but maybe just a plate of cookies or a warm loaf of bread and a jar of jam. Whatever you bring it will bless someone for sure!
You write on your site that you offer «easy recipes even your kids can make.» What are a few of your favorite recipes.
I often have my kids help me in the kitchen or even make a whole meal. I have even been known to text my daughter a link to Eat2gather so she can get dinner going for me. My boys are also pretty competent in the kitchen. The recipes that they make on their own or for their siblings if Ken and I are out are Egg Sandwiches, Stir Fried Ramen, or Paninis. They will also whip up a pan of quick Mac-n-Cheese or they love quesadillas.
Which two or three dessert recipes are your favorites?
I would have to say Strawberry Cake, it’s easy and always a favorite for birthdays and get-togethers. My mom’s Texas Sheet cake is a go-to recipe, and it always pleases! Fruit crisp is also another favorite and probably one of the most made recipes in our home, because it’s so easy to throw together. I personally love pie! And I love to make pie, I don’t make it as often as I would like but you can find a whole lot of pies here.
Sheila Johnson is the creative mind behind Eat2gather, a website where she shares her passion for feeding those she loves while helping and encouraging others to also spend more time around the dinner table with their families. With three teens and one more close behind, Sheila’s house is a busy one. When she’s not in her kitchen developing new recipes or tweaking old ones, you’ll find Sheila writing about life and travel, being a professional sideline cheerleader at her her kids events, or out trying to find the best new place to eat in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband Ken!