Saturday, March 13, 2010

Response #3 - Miriam Weinstein's book - "The Surprising Power of Family Meals"

Chapters 5 & 6:
Nourishing the spirit and flesh by gathering for a family meal is indeed a powerful mixture. In these next two chapters, Weinstein weaves her research into not only a narrative of people’s lives but makes a compelling tale of how families and individuals make a difference in the lives of a community.

The lives of women were turned upside down during the 60’s and 70’s as the feminist movement played out and more women found their “worth” in working outside of the home. This era created some radical and extreme thinking – but I am a survivor of that period. Women were told that it was beneath them to “slave” over the stove and care for children; that their place in society was more beneficial as a working woman. I did not listen to these voices as I stayed true to the belief that family and home were somehow more important than my career aspirations and my “contributions” to society was to be a stay-at-home mother.

However, many women did not have that luxury, as the feminist movement created a backlash of broken marriages. Women had to be not only mom, but the bread-winner as well. The story of Lynn F. was not uncommon during this time. Recognizing that something was wrong and rediscovering a child’s joy of helping through basil leaves made a profound change in her family. Though budget and times were still lean, Lynn F. learned that the children’s involvement in meal preparation and planning helped mend their wounded family.

The nourishing aspects of meals can be taught, but understanding the value of preparation as a former restaurateur, Rosalie Harrington did, by educating others through a local community outreach program. What a selfless act of service she offered. At this stage of my life, I try to do the same within our women’s Relief Society organization. What good does my knowledge have if not shared? That is how I learned, from other women and men sharing and teaching principles of food preparation to me. This has been a source of joy as I have watched my own children individually explore food preparation in their own homes, as well as the countless women I have been able to pass along information to.

With the numerous choices in foods that surround us, and the time we allot to eating is it no wonder that there are so many eating disorder issues. According to Ellyn Satter, parents and children have forgotten that “eating and sharing food are inherently pleasurable.” Instead, meal times have become a tug of war. Through understanding the responsibilities of both parent and child and in addition, learning to “relax,” families might be able to enjoy more meals together rather than become a short-order cook for finicky eaters.

It was interesting to read how those Weinstein interviewed felt deep spiritual feelings for the linkage of the “bread” and “body.” It was a great reminder that others have profound faith in Christ. The truth that is spoken by others not of my faith is the same in the homes of my family. A Catholic theologian, Bill Huebsch shares that, “In most of our lives, meals are also memorials.” They are rituals that teach us faith and the importance of family.

Within the home of Paul and Denny, who have opened up their home to others in need, have found that family meals are “a ritual that works unconsciously in people.” Their generosity of spirit is an example of sharing one another’s burdens and joys while breaking bread.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are taught to make our homes a sanctuary against the storms of life. I want all those who enter my home to feel welcomed and nourished by the good word of the Lord and a family meal. I too would like my home to be considered a mikdash méat, or ‘little holy place.’


Yvette said...

Thanks Ann for letting me be part of your study,It has occurred to me that the ideas that these women have are true,but it is more than that, people, our family,our children and those that walk through our doors at home, always at least at my home,find their way to our kitchen, to not just find food for the body,but food for the soul, you see in my house when the kids bring their friends they are always amazed that we cook almost all our meals from scratch, as a matter of fact, they think that we went our of our way to cook a special meal for them, but in fact they can't believe that we can still eat a meal together as a family, as crazy as we are and as busy that we get, we still have to eat and in the end we have had many wonderful conversation because of food, that we all need to so much to survive in this world, just like the soul needs love and attention. thanks again, it has made me think how important it is especially when the t.v is not on, how much you can enjoy one anothers company just by talking when your eating your meal. Anyways i hope this is what you were looking for.

adrienne said...

I love your posts!!! I am finally able to read them coherently even though I'm sleep deprived. I firmly believe in the power of having family meal time. I also believe in the more the merrier. We have always welcomed anyone and everyone to our house. They feel welcome as does anyone when warm yummy food is offered. I remember all the families you would invite after church to share or "break bread" with. It was ALWAYS fun and created new frienships that have lasted years. WE do live in a day when everything is "convienent" such as drive thru and take out. We live in a different era from the 60's-80's and thus we have adapted. There is still nothing better than a GOOD home-cooked meal that can create a warm feelings of familiarity within the walls around your kitchen table. There's also nothing better than your family talking about the good, the bad, the ugly about their days among the safety of their family while sharing a meal. "Sharing a meal" takes on a whole new meaning when you think about it that way. There is definitly more than food being shared...