The ideal meal. We all have an idea of what that looks like for our families. For my family the perfect meal includes wide variety, vibrant colors, and plenty of fresh ingredients. An abundance of luscious green leafies, healthy fats, a modest portion of high-quality protein, maybe another green vegetable with a side of…vegetables. You know, super healthy and Pinterest-worthy. I am in love with the idea of setting a beautiful table, eating delicious food, engaging in stimulating conversation, and creating a complete experience.
Sometimes we eat around a clean table with cloth napkins, real silverware and nice dishes. We might even light a candle if we are feeling really fancy. But this happens maybe four times a year. In a good year.
The reality is, I’m just grateful for the days I manage to get a hot meal on the table by 6:00pm. Sometimes, it looks like a crockpot meal, other times it looks like a take-out burrito bowl from that chain restaurant down the street. The table is often strewn with stray bottles, papers and half-eaten bags of my son’s favorite fruit snack. We push it to the side and sit down to enjoy whatever is in front of us. My husband and I fight the exhaustion from our individual days apart to engage in meaningful conversation together while my toddler refuses everything we offer, with the exception of the fruit snack he wants to eat exclusively.
The ideal meal and the real meal often feel worlds apart. So, I’m determined to close that gap by focusing on the things that matter. And here are four things that matter to me:
Eat at the table.
I eat in front of the TV, computer, or on my feet more often than I want to admit. I can’t tell you what I ate yesterday for lunch because I forgot to sit down and taste it. The act of pulling up a chair changes my experience of eating. I taste my food. I enjoy it. I remember to eat, and I remember what I ate.
Banish Pinterest from the table.
I really enjoy setting a beautiful table. But I enjoy the people around the table much more than the dishes we use or candles we light. A beautiful table is full of food my family likes, meaningful conversation, and making an effort to really see one another. Artful table arrangements are fun and can add a sense of warmth, creativity, and elegance. But my family and friends effortlessly bring those qualities in spades. I don’t need to fixate on creating a perfect table setting. Anyone who sits at my table is a bearer of beauty, and that is what matters.
Everyone has a voice at the table.
My husband has had a long day working for The Man, my toddler has had a long day learning how to be a tiny human in this world, I have had a long day juggling my responsibilities at home and work, which happen to be under the same roof. We all have needs. All of us want to be heard. In our joy, laughter, exuberance, heartache, and doubts. We all have a voice at this table, even when the voice is rusty or thin, because what we share with each other is important and leaves the door open for bigger, deeper conversations. Conversation doesn’t have to sparkle, it just has to hit home. We can speak about our whole experience, not just the nice stuff, and I want to hear it all.
Everyone has a seat at the table.
Age, race, gender, physical or mental limitations, differing political or religious views, past experiences, current socio-economic challenges… All are welcome. All have a seat this table. No qualifiers, no apologies, just a desire to nourish and be nourished here. There is Love at this table and everyone deserves to feast and drink deeply in a place where there is safety and abundance to share. It might be served on a paper plate, and it might come from a white carton with chopsticks and packets of soy sauce on the side, but it’s yours if you want it. If you will have us, we will gladly have you. You, dear friend, are always welcome at our table.