In our culture, our lives tend to become so insanely busy that meals often become an afterthought. There are so many obligations we devote our time to - our jobs, our kids' activities, school and church activities, social media - meals often become a question of "what can we grab between activities so we don't starve to death?" We are always in a hurry and do everything quickly and conveniently, including eating.
Since many of these activities have come to a screeching halt, how have your meals changed?
Are you cooking more at home now?
Are you eating more meals together as a family (and maybe occasionally with a couple family members or friends)?
Have you given more thought to sharing meals with neighbors or others who appreciate a good meal or someone to talk to?
Let's face it...our meals often just become an "ordinary" part of life. That is, they are just part of our routine and there is nothing memorable about them. When this happens, we are not very intentional - we don't put a lot of thought into WHAT we will eat, WHO we will eat with, WHERE we will eat (including the atmosphere we want to create) or WHAT we will talk about.
What if we were more intentional about our meals?
What if we made a conscious effort to transform our meals from ordinary to extraordinary?!
If you look at the parts of the world where people live the longest and have the lowest rates of chronic disease, regular meals with family and friends are an enormous part of their culture. Some countries even incorporate these ideas in their dietary guidelines like "eat in company whenever possible" and "develop, practice, share and enjoy your skills in food preparation and cooking."
So, how can we transform our meals from ordinary to extraordinary?
Here are a few ideas to consider:
Be thoughtful about WHAT to eat.
Put in-season vegetables and fruits at the center of your meals, and then complement them with meat, seafood, whole grains, nuts, seeds and dairy. The most flavorful and delicious meals are also nutritious. It's a great feeling at the end of a delicious meal to know that you have also nourished your body...imagine the difference:
Korean BBQ Chicken Tacos topped with Crunchy Coleslaw and served with Grilled Asparagus vs. a double bacon cheeseburger and fries picked up from a nearby drive-through window. Which one would leave you satisfied and feeling energized, and which might have you saying, "I really shouldn't have eaten that!"
If you have put some thought into your meal and are using fresh, in-season ingredients, you can't go wrong!
And yes, it's OK to enjoy a sweet treat (a couple bites of dark chocolate or fruit or a mini strawberry cheesecake bite) to round out your meal.
Consider WHO to eat with.
Of course, it's an excellent idea to enjoy family meals as often as possible. And, meals with good friends are always a great way to relax, laugh and have fun. In addition to the family and friends that you regularly enjoy meals with, think about others who you can extend an invitation to, especially after our quarantine lifestyle is over.
For example, while we don't do it near enough, we love to invite some of the local farmers and producers over for lunch or dinner. It is so much fun for them to see what we do with the food they have put so much heart into, and we inevitably learn something new and enjoy great laughs and memories.
Or, think about someone who may just need some company. Do you know someone special who has been going through a difficult time recently, or maybe they are lonely -- invite them over for a meal! You will be amazed how much fulfillment and enjoyment you can get from these mealtime experiences!
Your dining room or kitchen counter or table might be your "go-to," but think about other settings that might make the meal even more memorable.
One of our favorite things is to enjoy meals on our screened-in patio...it is definitely our "happy place!" Being outdoors is so relaxing and it makes for great conversation and laughter, and the best part? No pesky mosquitos, bees, and wasps!
Think about having a picnic -- you could set up a table in the backyard or the driveway if the weather is nice, which the kids would love! Even if the weather isn't cooperating and you are stuck inside, think about simple ways you can create an inviting and comfortable atmosphere...light candles, get creative with your table settings, sit on pillows around the coffee table, or have an indoor picnic in the middle of the living room!
Consider WHAT to talk about.
Meals provide a great opportunity to learn and teach the art of conversation, especially for children. What stories or experiences can you share that might benefit someone at the table? Our kids love the "high and low" game, where we ask about the "highs or lows" of their day. Some of our best conversations seem to take place when we are preparing and enjoying our meals.
It may not feel like it now, but time moves fast, don't let these opportunities pass you by! Make sure to savor the meal, the conversation, and the time together around the table!
What if we asked you "what was your most extraordinary meal this past year?"
Thanksgiving dinner would show up on most people's lists.
Why is that?
There is a lot of thought put into WHAT to eat, WHO to enjoy the meal with, WHERE to eat (yes, even including the infamous kids' table), and there is typically no shortage of lively conversations around the Thanksgiving table!
Has this "world turned upside down shelter-in-place lifestyle" made you think differently about things?
Because we have realized our most memorable meals include a combination of people we care about and really good food (REAL food!), we are making a better effort to be more intentional about inviting people over for a meal. Of course, we are adjusting our plan to make sure we keep ourselves and others safe and healthy. These past few weeks have reinforced the joy we get from preparing and savoring our meals, and the importance of elevating our meals from simply ordinary to truly extraordinary!
Good food, good company, good memories!
Are you trying new things and making your meals less ordinary the past few weeks?
What are you doing to make your meals truly extraordinary?