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Bring More to the Table by Making A Gratifying Dinner Experience


In our hurry-up world, dinner often gets sandwiched between yoga class, kids’ ballgames, homework and book-club night. To carve out time for family, my husband and I have been making an effort to have sit-down meals as often as possible with the 12-year-old in our lives. It takes some doing.

We felt encouraged when we went to celebrity chef Alton Brown’s show in Wilmington last February. He told the audience, “The most important kitchen tool is the kitchen table.” We agree. It’s our favorite piece of furniture, and we gather there whenever we can. Two stories in this edition of 302Health get to the root of the daily feeding frenzy.

Chef Gretchen Hanson of Hobos Restaurant & Bar in Rehoboth talks about an interesting concept, “deliberate eating,” in “One Bite at a Time” (page 29). In her essay, she speaks from the experience of a kitchen professional who spends most of her life on her feet, grazing, as she prepares meals for others. She wants to change her relationship with food.“ The art of deliberate eating requires that not only do you plan each eating event as an important part of each day,” she says. “But that you focus on each and every mouthful and taste as you savor your meal.”

It brings to mind the media coverage of former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s eating habits. It was said she chewed each bite of food 25 times before swallowing. We tried that at a family dinner recently. It’s hard to do, but a fun experiment. Gretchen’s comments make sense. We should make our meals a pleasurable activity. The process can even be as simple as paying attention to the utensils. “Laying out the table with cloth, cutlery, chopsticks, flowers and candles gives the dining event the sense of circumstance that it deserves,” she says. (I know what you’re thinking. Some days, I’m just glad to use real plates, too.)

The type of sustenance is also important. Gretchen contends that nourishing, satisfying food leads to positive growth and healthy energy—which feeds right into Pam George’s story, “Live Like a Locavore,” (page 26). Pam looks at the direction the local-food movement is taking. You could call it “hyper-local.” Serious proponents are limiting their food purchases to what’s available within 60-100 miles of their homes. Their reasoning spurred me to finally look into joining a CSA. Tip: Now is the time to register. By spring, many are full.

Even restaurant chefs are taking the farm-to-fork trend to another level, like Jason Barrowcliff of Brandywine Prime Seafood and Chops in Chadds Ford, Pa. The father of two young daughters, he is now growing organic produce at home. He also shares the bounty with his restaurant. “I grew broccoli this year,” he says. “And I’ll never buy supermarket broccoli again.” Noted food author Michael Pollan of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” probably summed up healthy eating best: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” He forgot to add “at the kitchen table.”