I was reading an essay by The Blushing Hostess in which she promotes reclaiming the family dinner hour, the kind I (sort of) remember when I was a kid. Setting the table, fresh prepared food, serving plates, bread basket, a pitcher of tea. Reading her essay brought back so many startlingly clear memories that it inspired me to dwell on them for a moment or two.
Our family dinner table was the place where my mother taught us basic table manners. Placing a napkin in our laps, holding our silverware properly, passing the salad bowl, navigating the tricky combination of eating and conducting polite conversation. My father never failed to proclaim that the meatloaf was delicious and he ended each meal with a thank you.
Supper was not a leisurely activity because there were a variety of tasks that needed tending to each evening afterwards, homework among them. Our meals were simple; my father assisted by tossing a salad, my brother and I set the table and fed the pets, and we all participated in clean-up afterwards. Telephone calls, music, television, magazines or anything else that did not belong at the dinner table was prohibited.
As I grew older, I learned to appreciate how my mother cared for table linens, pressed the napkins and used pretty greenery and ribbon to set a festive table on holidays and other special occasions. Having a meal in the dining room by candlelight was an exciting luxury to be savored. I considered it a special treat to drink my water from a pretty goblet and noticed that the clink of our knives and forks against the china plates sounded ever so much nicer than our ordinary tableware.
As the Blushing Hostess points out, family dinner is often victim to competing priorities. But without family dinner, there is not much opportunity to glean the essentially important life lessons generally imparted around the supper table. I’m squarely in her corner on this particular topic.