A&L links to Jonathan Yardley’s review review of Miriam Weinstein’s How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier, and Happier.” He feels she overstates her case, but agrees a powerful case is to be made. This reinforces a point some other writers made that I mentioned in an earlier post. And I see this as we are preparing to go another family celebration in my husband’s large and tightly knit family – one of his twenty-five or so cousins on his mother’s side is celebrating a 25th anniversary. (In the last year we’ve been to a 50th anniversary and a wedding for others of those cousins.)
And I remember the dinners my mother-in-law insisted on making and serving every night of the week for our small family (at first with only one daughter), for the beginning years of my business. I was never home to fix meals during those long days and longer weeks; sometimes I literally fell asleep on my feet. The home would have been chaotic – food ordered, dinners out, snacks grabbed – if it had fallen to me. But she proceeded with an iron will. The family must eat together, eat calmly, eat at the same time, eat a balanced meal. I can’t say it was always easy on me – it wasn’t my food in my house, it wasn’t, in a real sense, my family. But it was, as I came to realize, exactly what my husband and daughters needed: they needed to be able to count on that meal, they needed to be able to count on that quiet. And so my daughters felt relatively secure and our marriage lasted when the external pressures of our separate professional obsessions (and my lost career in English) strained it. My husband and daughter (and therefore, I) needed that space, that ritual, that predictability. And now, my mother-in-law is 87 and wants to go to this anniversary dinner because it, too, is a ritual and even more important to her as her siblings age and there are fewer of them to observe it. Barbecue and kolaches and polkas – it is a rowdy ritual but no less meaningful for that.