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We believe in the pleasures of good food, good wine and good conversation.

Admittedly, cooking for company makes me nervous. I feel a little vulnerable when we open our home to someone and share a meal. Will people notice our kitchen mess? The pile of papers on the desk that I forgot to stash away? And most importantly, will they like what I cook?

My family will attest that when company comes for dinner, I spiral into a little frenzy, frantically tidying everywhere, fretting over cooking times and what dishes to use. The boys say “Mom, why get so worked up? They’re just coming for dinner.”  Over the years, I’ve learned to take a “chill pill” and spontaneously host from the heart, as my kids suggested.

I think people are hesitant to invite people into their homes because of busyness and lack of time to prepare to a level they believe is acceptable. It’s just easier to meet at a restaurant. I totally get that, but there’s something personal and special about being invited to another’s home. And really, no one cares if the house is clean or the food is fancy.

I believe that most folks simply appreciate being invited to another’s home for a meal. You could serve popcorn and licorice and people would be happy. [By the way, that’s a great flavor combination, in my opinion!]

Perhaps the best way to entertain is last minute. That way, no one has the time to overthink anything or panic at imperfection. Everything just is what it is.

Some of our best meals have been totally spontaneous. Our longtime, close friends live in Calgary. One evening, they arrived late for a surprise visit and hadn’t eaten supper. What to do? It was 10 o’clock at night, but Kevin went out to the shop to grab some steaks while I fixed a tossed salad, sliced the baguette and opened a bottle of red wine. We ate pan-fried tenderloin in garlic butter while sipping wine, visiting and leisurely lingering at the table until after midnight. It was the perfect ending to a long day. We still talk about that meal.

Another time, we were testing our BBQ Brisket and we had copious amounts of leftover cooked BBQ beef and chicken to eat. A few texts later, we had 15 people in our house for supper, happily munching on BBQ brisket, coleslaw, buns and beer. Nothing fancy, just fun.

OK, but how do we find pleasure in the everyday family meal? As the Chief Cook, I can say that sometimes the effort that goes into planning and preparing a meal seems unappreciated. It’s largely invisible work. The kids inhale the food, drop the dishes in the sink and run. Before I freak out, I must remind myself that this is my personal act of generosity and love for my family.

Our family tries to eat at least one meal a day together. It’s a little easier for us because we work from home. Even so, it takes a determined effort to get us all to the meal table. Eating together is an excuse to catch up with the kids, talk about what’s happening in their life and share perspectives on the world around us. We relax, recharge and reconnect.

Saturday morning brunches are a family ritual that we hold dear. Saturdays are our one morning of the week when we don’t have to rush quite as much. Kevin usually makes bacon, eggs and crepes piled high with whipped cream and fruit. The smell of bacon wafting up the stairs is enough to lure the kids out of bed!

The importance of the family meal table can’t be overstated. We know that eating together as a family helps lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression as well as improves grades and self-esteem. In addition, it helps our children learn social norms, the art of conversation and storytelling AND it can reduce obesity rates. As a parent, what could be a better use of my time than making a meal? [Source: ]

Science proves it, but leave it to Anthony Bourdain to say it succinctly:

We know, for instance, that there is a direct, inverse relationship between frequency of family meals and social problems. Bluntly stated, members of families who eat together regularly are statistically less likely to stick up liquor stores, blow up meth labs, give birth to crack babies . . . or make donkey porn. If little Timmy had just more meatloaf, he might not have grown up to fill chest freezers with Cub Scout parts.” ~Anthony Bourdain

Food and community are inextricably linked. The shared meal table holds us together. It is a basic human expression of friendship, pleasure and community. In our culture of busy, we are starved for time to spend together. Good food, good wine and conversation might be the perfect anecdote.

P.S. What food rituals are important in your family? We’re interested to hear stories from around your family dinner table. How has food shaped relationships in your life?

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