The dining table, the heart of our home

In today’s post, I’m sharing how we go against a cultural norm of quick, unplanned meals around convenience and feed our family around the season, nature, and intuition, and do so with great pride. It’s an absolute privilege and honor to be able to feed our family this way, and therefore, I want to take the time to share the lessons I’ve learned with the help of growing this slow botanical food blog.

Our Principles around the dinner table:

Right now I’m reading Principles by Ray Dalio, creator of Bridgewater Associates, one of the most important private companies in the United States, according to Fortune magazine, one of the most influencial people in the world. I decided to create my own principles around the most critical areas in my life and family. The definition of a principle is a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reason.

The table is the heart of the home.

Sitting around the table for breakfast and dinner is a nonnegotiable for us. Lunch is excluded as we are are often not together during this meal. For each meal we do enjoy together, there will be a joint family effort to set the table and putting food on it. The work load will have to be individual to each family, as we each have our time restrictions. But everyone who can contributes. In our household, my husband serves as the primary financial provider for the meals. I take the mental load of planning and preparing meals. Our children set the table, and together we all clean up.

Together we will sit and enjoy our meal together until we are finished. Call it old fashioned, but for us, it works. We like to set candles, listen to nice music, drink infused water, and enjoy conversation with our meals.

Meals don’t have to be difficult

Dinner doesn’t have to be an elegant gourmet meal. Salads, sandwiches, charcuterie, and just an assortment of leftovers and are perfectly excellent and appreciated in this household. Breakfast for us is just eggs, yogurt, fruit and coffee for my husband and I. There is just no way we can do all of our current responsibilities, spending hours on a meal each and every day, so we save that for special occasions and gatherings. But while the culture around meals is not always “fast and processed”, it’s not always “slow and from scratch, either. We certainly don’t turn our nose up to quality premade foods. This week, a good canned tomato basil soup and a premade quiche have been part of our dinners. We take full responsibility in knowing which ingredients we wish to avoid and making things from scratch when we can’t find the time to make them, or a brand that delivers the quality we demand. We are American diplomats and often enjoy our meals outside of the US. It’s so disappointing that when I’m shopping in the UK market, it’s so easy to find quality premade food that we can eat without spending our entire paycheck at the grocer. American consumers must stop buying garbage food and demand this change with our dollar. For now, we have to always stay informed on sneaky ways conglomerate food producers are putting less than desirable ingredients to keep the costs low.

Set the table & Use the excellent dishes, and set out some flowers:

Use linen napkins and those napkin rings. Have tableware you’re proud of. Buy things you’d pass down to your own children. Life is a nice occasion to use them. Polish the silver tea set. Take ownership of your things and buy quality timeless cookware. Set flowers from the garden or a fresh bouquet out just because. We have become a culture of buying things based on as cheap as possible when they are trendy and disposing of them when they no longer fit the prevalent aesthetic. And if you eat regular meals on disposables, that is incredibly wasteful in a world where nearly every home has a dishwasher. Have higher standards for your home and environment.

Shopping should be on short trips and done frequently.

Americans often take infrequent trips to large grocers and stock up on as much as possible to save time. This has created two major issues: a culture of wastefulnes as we often don’t find the time or energy to produce all we buy. And the ability for food producers to make everything last on the shelves as long as possible.. When we moved overseas, I decided to become disciplined enough to shop frequently (daily) at specialty shops for freshness and quality even though it’s not convenient. Support your local baker and butcher if they even exist in your area. Ditch the “meal plan”, buy what you need for the day. This has saved us so much money as we no longer waste food.

Eat with etiquette:

We teach our children table manners. It feels like a lost art when we’re dining with others. Bring your best self to the meal. Hold utensils correctly. Use your napkin. Pace yourself. Don’t reach across the table. Good posture. Always ask to be excused.

All of it still matters. Start young.

Eat with focus and gratitude:

Dinner is reserved for our focus and gratitude. We don’t read, play games, or watch anything while we eat. We do, however have a great set of conversation cards. We ask each other questions. It’s a great way to engage and learn more about each other.

Always save room for dessert:

Our family favorite is classic vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt with fresh berries and granola.

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