A Gathering Place

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day for your body, but I’d argue that dinner is the most important for your soul. Too often I find myself chugging a protein shake on my way to work, eating lunch in front of my computer, and mindlessly munching on dinner in front of the television. Society as a whole has stopped viewing mealtimes as ritual opportunities to relax and connect. Instead meals have become something that we “get through” instead of savor. Fast food has become more of a staple than family dinners and we are more likely to “just grab something on the way” than to take the time to fully prepare and cook a healthy meal. Heck, there are houses today that don’t have a dedicated dining area.

So how do we get back to the enjoyment of mealtimes? How do we cultivate relationships across the dining table? And how do we ensure that eating mindfully becomes part of our daily lives?

I don’t claim to know the answers to all these questions. I’m still struggling with the eating mindfully one most. But, I do know that creating a dedicated space for dining – and I mean truly dining, not scarfing something down over the kitchen counter – is the first step in repairing our broken relationship with mealtimes. When I moved into my current apartment I hadn’t had a dining room (or nook, or area, or even a table) for about three years. Any meal that I ate at home was eaten in front of the TV as I decompressed or over the countertop as I rushed out the door. In retrospect, this probably contributed to my gaining extra weight. That’s why I decided to carve out a space in my new apartment for a dining room that I truly loved – one that I wanted to sit down in every day.

It all started with a mahogany dining table that I inherited from my great-grandmother. It’s a bit beat up and needs to be refinished (I’ll find the time eventually) but is the perfect size for the wall I placed it against. I then found two wooden shelves at Hobby Lobby and created a sort of mantlepiece for displaying food-related items that I thought were pretty. From a wine glass, to a clock, to a row of little white mugs, these pieces along with two paintings from Society6 were all I needed to create an atmosphere I wanted to exist in. I found myself looking forward to meal times and spending more time eating my dinners.

Overall, having a dedicated dining area has made me realize just how much I was unconsciously eating. Now I have a rule that I only eat at the table. It doesn’t matter if it’s a full meal, dessert, or a few crackers – I will sit down and eat them at the table, taking the time to really savor the experience. I don’t know if it’s done anything to make me healthier, but I’m certainly enjoying my evenings more.

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