For the past year, team member Bri has regularly expanded her family dinner table to include her father. “My mom died three years ago, and Dad lives alone a few hours’ drive away from us,” she says. “He’s never been one for cooking or eating well — that was Mom’s job. Once the pandemic hit, we worried about him not only being totally isolated, but trying to survive on crackers and Velveeta.”
To work with quarantine protocols, they set up a system where her dad would spend at least two weeks at his home, then at least two weeks at hers. “What ended up happening was that the visits would stretch longer and longer,” Bri shares. “Two weeks would become three or even four sometimes. Dad helped us tackle some home projects, because he’s very handy. We joked that we paid him in dinners. But my husband noticed that the more Dad ate with us, the more he came out of his shell. He seemed happier. He found his appetite, too, and went from picking at meals to eating second helpings of some dinners. He started lingering at the table with us to tell stories, talk politics or make plans.”
Often, child-free adults or empty nesters ask us whether family dinners are really worth the trouble. Why bother eating together if there are no kids around? It’s true that when we talk about the benefits of family dinners, we usually focus on the positive impact dinner can have on kids. But as Bri and her family experienced, shared meals are also great for adults — those with kids at home, and those without. We asked Dr. Anne Fishel to shed some light on what dinner does for grown-ups, and she shared some important points.
Sure, many of us probably already knew that eating with others is good for our physical and mental health. Just look at all the people who have gone to great lengths to set up Zoom family dinners for parents and grandparents during the pandemic. Somehow, they knew deep down that eating together, even on a screen, was going to be more satisfying than just talking to the webcam. Still, it’s nice to have some proof that sitting down with others and sharing a meal is a healthy, rewarding activity at every stage of life. So the next time you’re tempted to skip family dinner and just nibble on some cheese instead, remember that you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you find someone to share it with.
The Burroughs family are a great example of how family dinners can change when the kids are grown — and what couples can learn from the experience!
Speaking of adults, this month you might be celebrating a particularly special adult in your lives — Mom. This crustless vegetable quiche is a great brunch recipe for Mother’s Day, or any day!
Rekindle the romance with an at-home “restaurant” experience that’s perfect for date night!
It’s easy to get stuck in a conversational rut. These grown-up alternatives to “How was your day?” can help get the conversation flowing again.