This photo was taken in late 50’s early 60’s after a family fishing trip. Thats me on the right, gently stroking the fish…Pondering life and death, questioning source, perhaps even contemplating its future? …..Clearly I like to think that I’ve always been deeply connected to food.
DISCONNECT AND RECONNECT
Recently, visiting some of the local cafes around Melbourne, I noticed an increasing number of kids joining their parents at the table. I love Melbourne for its café culture, its buzz of social activity, but it saddened me to watch the number of kids sitting at the table, glued to an electronic device and not engaging in the world around them. Sure their device kept them engaged and meant that the grown ups were free to talk, but I did wonder at the lost opportunity for the kids to actively learn how to socialise in a broader context. How to talk with their parents friends, how to communicate with the staff, how to sit, watch and enquire about the diversity of the world around them. I wondered too if this is how it might work at home while their parents prepared their meals they sat disengaged from the kitchen, waiting for the “dinner’s ready” call.
I grew up in a large extended family and meals, whether at home or in a restaurant, were always filled with talk and laughter and stories. Admittedly a lot of our stories were centred around food, but this is where I learnt about seasonal food, what’s fresh, what isn’t, what is food balance and how to share food. We would learn that the best bits are given to the oldest and then the youngest out of respect. Kids, mums, dads, aunties, uncles and grandparents, all learning from one another. This was our time to catch up with our loved ones and to truly connect. Kids were not treated differently or separately and certainly there was never anything called kids food. We were an integral part of the family, we were respected as equals and we behaved as equals. From the age of 3or 4, we were expected to contribute to the preparation of a meal, the discussion around the table, the sharing of food with each other and then we all just got on with the business of cleaning up. Sharing food meant, shared plates too. We were conscious of what and how much others were eating. Does anyone need more rice, does the communal soup bowl need filling, has everyone had their fill?
Today, people’s lives are increasingly busy with ever growing extra curricular activities, electronic devises and increased workloads. Finding ways to feel like a family, to really engage with your kids is getting harder. Finding ways for them to practice their social skills, to contribute and take some responsibility for the world in which they live and for the food that is on their table is an ever-increasing challenge.
There’s no doubt that food brings us together. We all have to eat so lets make the most of this opportunity by cooking and eating together. I challenge you to start. Just one night a week to disconnect from devices and re-connect with each other.