In my abuela's kitchen

Written by: Maria Zubia-Flores

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making time for family meals

Food plays an important part in our family life; it is around the kitchen table that families can share about their lives and where we get to know each other better. It is important for families to eat together but life’s occupations like work, school, sports, etc. often seem to get in the way. Around the kitchen table is a place where we can form a sense of togetherness with our loved ones. Since our families usually live busy lives, pick a time that works for you and make a commitment to spend time together.

“It’s incredible what we’re willing to make time for if we’re motivated. Eating together [can] help our children do better in school, get in better shape, and be less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Eating together also [leads] children to report better relationships with their parents and surely relationships between adults can similarly benefit.”

Making memories

One of my fondest childhood memories is sitting around my Abuelita’s kitchen table on Christmas eve and helping her make tamales. There were plenty of laughs as we shared memorable moments as a family and tears as we remembered those who went before us. It was a time we used to strengthen the relationship with our extended family. Even when we were in different life paths, we made the effort to get together. Sadly, after my grandmother passed away we also lost our time together as a family. Without someone to bring us together we let life’s situations take over and didn’t make the effort to continue with her tradition. 

Since spending time with my family was one of my favorite things growing up, when I got married I wanted to implement the tradition with my family. My husband and I have very different work schedules but we always make a priority to share at least one meal every day. It is more often that we have dinner together but when one of us has something to do and can’t make it to dinner we often have virtual lunch dates. 

non traditional family meals

Getting together with our loved ones for family meals not always has to be in the traditional way. Even though sharing a space is recommended, there are other ways we can connect with our families. 

1. Plan a virtual meal time. Thanks to technology we have the ability to be connected with those who are far away. The point here is to spend quality time together building stronger family ties. You can use Zoom to plan a virtual dinner. 

2. Is your family usually on the go? Plan a picnic! Prepare a simple meal and take a few minutes to eat as a family. During COVID lockdown, my friend connected with her children through exploring places around their homes and finding the perfect spot to share lunch. This gave them the opportunity to leave the house, spend time in nature, and make memories. 

3. Quality over quantity. If your family has different schedules and is hard to find a time when everyone is home for meal time make those time you’re together more special. Plan and schedule a meal and invite other family members to make the commitment to be there. 

4. Avoid distractions. Make the time with your family count; avoid using electronics or any other distractions that take away from your time together. Use meal time to connect with each other and learn more about your loved ones. 

5. Understand that family meals may not be perfect. There have been times when dinner was less than perfect at our home; stress, work, and outside conflicts made it difficult not only to find the time to be together but also our attitude wasn’t the best. Be patient with each other and don’t let a bad experience ruin your commitment to spend time as a family. Keep trying despite of the challenges you may face. 

If you think about life's different occasions, food is most likely at the center of each one. We use food to mark special occasions, such as birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, graduations and weddings. Food is used to offer comfort to people who are mourning the loss of a loved one. It is prepared for the special family members and friends in our lives who need extra help while recovering from an illness or after having a baby. Food also plays a significant role in our daily lives: having breakfast with the kids before school, a lunch meeting with co-workers, or dinner with our spouse.

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