The dinner table is where weekend plans are made. It’s where I find out which kid did what to the other. It’s where I find out my daughter has a book report due at school the next day … and needs a costume by 6 a.m. … as well as two dozen cupcakes … and she has no clean clothes.
While I learn all these neat things about everyone’s day, my children are learning as well. They may not realize it, though.
They are learning where food comes from. They are more apt to try new things … things that they helped plant and grow.
I let them thumb through seed catalogues before I make my order. They may see something they think is cool, like a watermelon with moon and stars on the rind. When they do, we get some seed. We may not grow the best tasting watermelon that year, but my children grew it, and that makes it the best tasting watermelon they have ever had.
Supper means a lot to my family. We are a meat-and-three kind of family. My husband will snub his nose at the mention of a sandwich or salad. He means business when it comes to supper … big business.
The vegetable garden really saves us a lot of time each day — time deciding what sides to cook. When fresh vegetables are not available, it can become a chore to think of side dishes to go along with supper.
During the summer, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers are always on the menu. Then it’s either fried okra, sautéed beans or maybe squash and onions. Corn and peas, too?
Not everything is a hit. Tomatoes are one of my favorites; the kids, not so much. Green beans, though, will disappear from the pan before they hit the table.
Pesto is one item that is a hit with everyone. We seeded a lot of basil early this year. The children never complain when I ask them to go pick some basil for me.
Learning to eat fruits and vegetables is not all that is learned at the dinner table. I overheard one of the children tell my husband the other day to get his elbows off the table. You know what this means? They have been watching and listening.
I also caught one of the kids with a napkin in their lap. A napkin? Wow!
The dinner table has really changed the way my family interacts with one another. We used to eat in front of the television every night. No one spoke to one another. I probably texted and e-mailed on the phone while we ate. Then one day, one of the kids asked why we never sat at the table. The table? You know, that oval-shaped piece of furniture that is used for folding laundry.
Since that question, we have made it a point to eat at the dinner table most nights (not all). No phones, no televisions. Just dinner. I have learned a lot. Sometimes more than I want to know.
I challenge everyone to plant a few crops with your kids. Then take it one step further; sit at the dinner table and share the harvest with them.
Danielle Carroll is an extension agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.