Meat and Potatoes
In our household the dinner table is the one place and time where we all stop to take a breath together and enjoy a bit of uninterrupted time as a family. Our days are busy and its often the only chance we get to catch up all together. Like many of you, because we hold dinner time as a special time, we like to invite people to join us on occasion and have a big feast together. It is one of my very favorite things to see people at ease around our table, enjoying each other over food my husband or I prepared.
We are trying to instill table manners with our son from a young age so that it becomes second nature to him, but at the same time we want meal time to continue to be a fun time that he doesn’t shy away from. So from no tantrums and trying everything from his dinner plate once to dipping oatmeal cookies in milk for dessert we strive for that elusive balance of the fun but polite kid at the dinner table.
I’ve had many conversations over the years about dinner table etiquette with people more wise than I – and while we have our own set of rules – the following seems to be the meat and potatoes of dinner table etiquette according to the experts like etiquette daily and housewife bliss (with a bit of my own bias thrown in there):
1. Gratitude: Appreciate the person who cooked for you at the beginning and end of the meal. This means more than a “mmm” or a “great meal – thanks” – it also means waiting for them to sit down before you dive in to the food (unless they ask you to start without them) and waiting to leave the table until everyone is done.
2. Chew chew chew. Swallow. Talk. : No one likes see-food. It doesn’t matter if you’re four or forty, enjoy the food in your mouth, then share what you have to say. It makes for a more enjoyable experience for everyone around you and people can concentrate on what’s coming out of your mouth rather than what’s in it.
3. Technology be gone: I’m hard and fast on this rule. No smart phones at the table. Checking email, texts, playlists, apps or anything else at the dinner table sends the message that the people you are sitting with are not as interesting and important as you are. It’s rude. This also applies to game devices for kiddos. It’s one of the biggest reasons family dinners fall apart into tiny one person islands of self absorbed consumption. If you are awaiting an urgent call, let the host know (even if its just you and your spouse) and apologize, having your phone discretely beside you.
4.Try it: This is one of the toughest ones for picky eaters like me. Being a gracious guest means trying what your host has prepared, you might just be surprised and find a new favorite. My tip for this one is to serve yourself a smaller portion to start, that way if you dislike it, there is only a little bit left on your plate
5.Shop Talk: Be aware of who is at your table. It might mean avoiding topics that are noninclusive to certain guests. In our case at our family dinners it often means catching up a little bit on our day and then including our son in on conversation topics to encourage his participation in a positive way at the dinner table. Also be wary of the old taboos with company of religion, politics and family drama.
I’m sure you have different table etiquette and would love if you’d share yours with us. I’ve heard everything from cutlery together to wide apart when finished a meal (Emily Post says together and handles facing 4 ‘oclock), children should be seen and not heard to kids get a free “graze” pass – we all hold different aspects and levels of dinner table etiquette dear – but we should all be aware of the basics.
As for our meat and potatoes – last night we had great lamb chops, I wanted to try a new recipe and found one on a favorite site; recipe finder. We enjoyed them with fresh raw carrots, broccoli with the ever enticing cheese sauce and scalloped potatoes. And the reward for our little man trying (and enjoying) lamb for the first time? Strawberry Grenada – the snow outside made me think of a snowy dessert (this one is also fun to make with kids if you are so inclined…)
prep time: 10 minutes total time: 5 hours 10 minutes
ingredients: I used 1 cup fresh strawberries, 1 cup simple syrup (1/2 cup sugar boiled with 1 cup water), and 1 lemon zest and juice but you can choose any assortment of fruit you enjoy and sub orange juice or pinaple juice for the simple syrup
- blend up your fruit with the liquid so that there are no chunks of fruit
- run through a sieve if you don’t want seeds or small pieces
- pour mixture into a non-conducive pan (like glass or Pyrex) and freeze, covered for 5 hours
- shave off with a fork into small dishes for a delicious way to end your meal – even on a cold winter night