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Life, ‘The Big Meal’ and How We Feed Our Families

I’ve never been a “just a salad” kind of girl. I proudly tell any man — first date or last — that I don’t eat for show. I eat for sustenance.

But meals are more than about sustenance. Meals are about togetherness, conversations and connections.

When I was growing up, family dinner was mandatory — my father came home from his manufacturing job in New Jersey around 4 p.m. and we ate dinner as a family at 4:30 every night, 5 p.m. at the latest.

My parents held family dinners as sacred, and I believe I was nearing college before I was allowed to miss one — don’t get me started on Sunday dinner. Missing that probably required marriage … and even then we still came back on Sundays.

That’s because family meals were important. Not necessarily for what was served (although my mom would always put her foot in it, as they say) but for what was shared: Time.

Family meals were a time for laughs, updates, gossip and maybe some drama. But it was the center of our sense of family: coming together over food.

And since my immediate family is no longer in the same state, those memories of breakfasts, dinners and barbecues are even more precious. More treasured.

I remember one year when we had a Sunday dinner with my aunts and cousins over, my mother was determined to have everyone sit down at one table for a meal. No kiddie table. No trays on laps in the living room.

We spent all afternoon rearranging the dining room, my father was flustered at having to add leaves to our table, assemble another table to connect it and move furniture to make one long table that extended into the living room.

No one understood why this was so important to my mom. But it was. Sharing a meal was one thing. But sharing one table (no matter how makeshift) was another.

Years later, I got it.

I got this is an even bigger way when I recently went to see the off-Broadway play, The Big Meal (thanks MamaDrama) . It was a powerful look at three generations of family, coming together and falling apart and coming back together again over a meal. As these lives unfold there are loves, breakups, marriages, children, divorce, conflict, in-laws and death. And it all plays out over a meal (Go see this play if you can!).

The connection between food and family is powerful and complex — from incorporating our cultural foods to cooking in a healthier way.

As a mother, I not only make meal-time meaningful for my family, but I also give a lot of thought to what I am feeding my family. With food safety concerns on the rise and food labeling confusion
–“organic” vs. “All natural,” etc., moms have to be even more food smart these days than ever before.

That’s why I’m so honored to partner with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and urban organic chef, author and food activist Bryant Terry to host FOOD & MY FAMILY, an interactive  cooking demo and “fooducation” event showcasing simple ideas for feeding your family “good food” — along with education on food labeling and food safety that parents want.
Join us May 9th for an extraordinary evening of tastings, conversations and food fun for the whole family.

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