Friday, August 27, 2010

Family Dinner

Some may wonder why I am so obsessive about dinners. As a child we ate family dinners together every night. I remember my mom cutting portions smaller and smaller to accommodate my teenage friends that often arrived at dinner time. She never turned anyone away, but would add more rice, make a bigger salad, or add more bread to the meal. I remember those chicken breasts getting smaller and smaller, much to the dismay of my hungry dad. I lived in "that" house. The one where everyone felt loved and safe. The place where everyone hung out on sultry summer evenings. Mom would inevitably make an appearance on the screened porch with a tray of drinks and a bag of popcorn or chips. There were kids digging in the fridge. There were extra teenage bodies strewn about the family room many mornings. My friends so loved our house that they would come and stay when I was not even home.

Children can sense a safe, loving home. They gravitate to those houses. My mom never complained about the extra mouths to feed. She never grumbled about the disappearing sodas and kids digging in her fridge. She reveled in the joy of knowing where her kids were, that they were safe, and that she could sleep peacefully.

Well into our older teen years, my brother and I were often home for dinner. Mom said she found out all the important information at the dinner table. She found out which kids were struggling, how we were doing in school, how we were getting along with our friends, and the latest gossip spreading through the neighborhood and school hallways. It gave them a chance to offer advice on our problems and reconnect as a family.

The family dinner has become a tale of antiquity. No longer important in this fast paced world that values travel sports over family togetherness. Parents must divide and conquer to get the kids to all their activities which are conveniently scheduled during the dinner hours. What happened to school activities right after school? I was an active kid. I swam and danced. I worked and dated. How was I still able to be home for dinner? Quite simply, activities were never scheduled during dinner hours.

I guard our family dinners with the fierceness of a bear protecting her cubs. It is important. My girls at younger ages learned how to behave at the table. They learned how to engage in conversation and be polite. How can we expect them to behave in a restaurant when they don't sit at the table at home? As they have gotten older, I find so much truth in my mother's words. We get all the important information at the dinner table. Food has a way of knocking down barriers and opening up honest conversation. We laugh. We play silly games. We tell stupid jokes. We have some serious conversations. We go over things that happened during the day. It is my favorite time of the day. It is not about the food, it is about the family.

Here is my hectic, running around, no time to cook crockpot taco recipe...

2 lbs. ground beef
1 chopped onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 can diced chile peppers
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 can tomato paste
1/2 C water
1 pkg. taco seasoning (I make my own but store bought works too)

Brown ground beef. Add onions and garlic and saute a couple minutes. Place in crockpot. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Cook on low 5-8 hours. Makes great leftovers for taco salad!

Serve with tortillas, roasted corn (or frozen corn), salad, and all the toppings.

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