Although I complain about the chaos and my inability to come up with a menu everyone will eat, the greatest meal I’ve ever had is any meal I shared with my children and grandchildren. Because only one set of children and grandchildren live near me, looking around the table at everyone happens about once a year.
On these occasions, I am always reminded of how much life has changed from when I was the child at the table. Back in those days, no one complained about the menu, asked for different food, or left the table without permission. We were expected to “clean our plates” because someone was always starving somewhere. As a child, I never understood this connection. Would my eating all of this food, some of which I didn’t like, help children without enough food? I know. My parents were trying to teach me to be grateful. Still, it might have been better for my eating habits and those hungry kids to make a donation to feed them.
Fast forward to recent years with me as the family matriarch, and boy have times ever changed. Let’s take this past Thanksgiving, for example. Two of my children’s families, including six of the eight grandkids, attended. Of course, I took care of the usual turkey, stuffing, challah bread (wrong holiday but my grandkids love it), and pumpkin pie. Plus I made a birthday cake. But one of my daughters hosted and she is a vegetarian. So she made cranberries, roasted vegetables, sweet potatoes, and kiddy food. That’s right, separate dishes for my grandkids because half of them won’t touch the traditional Thanksgiving fare.
We had pasta, both plain and buttered, a mashed baked potato, and assorted goodies from Trader Joe’s. The table and kitchen were totally covered with food. I guess everyone had something he or she liked, although I could swear one of my grandsons didn’t eat anything. It was hard to say in all of the chaos.
But we did get to share what we were thankful for and the kiddos rose to the occasion. They were mostly thankful for being together with family and for love. You can’t beat that. Instead of forcing them to eat everything on their plates, we talked about how lucky they are compared with many children in our country and throughout the world. Hopefully, they will one day become change agents to make things better.
When all of my family gathers, I have given up on attempting to cook anything. In fact, the last time my entire family gathered, we ordered in pizza. Still, we had to prepare side dishes for a couple of the kids who didn’t like that kind of pizza. And a few barely ate but no one stopped them from running off to play and coming back to the table for dessert.
Maybe it’s better this way. I was so happy just being with all of my children and grandchildren that I realized the meal doesn’t didn’t matter. The greatest meal I ever had was any time I broke bread with my entire family.