Suppertime was not an especially sacred time in my household while I was growing up. Although we said a grace of sorts as a small reminder to be thankful for the food and family and all the things, I don’t remember if my parents had particular rules about sitting down to the family meal. We put our elbows on the table, chewed with our mouths full, answered the phone if it rang, snuck our brussel sprouts to the dog and did not ask to be excused. If we turned off the TV, it was because my parents found whatever we were watching annoying, not necessarily to encourage suppertime as a time for us to catch up and debrief about our day. Sometimes we sat together in discussion, sometimes we didn’t. Either way, my point is eating together and family time were not deeply instilled.
Since my childhood so long ago, things have gotten much worse. Busy schedules split families up during mealtimes, leaving members (children included) to fend for themselves. TV’s and smart phones hold our attention instead of precious conversation. Ready-to-eat meals are taking the place of homemade meals to make food preparation less of a hassle. As a result of all of these changes, young people are losing valuable life skills such as cooking, conversation and sharing time with others. The American family meal is swiftly being dismantled. In asserting independence from the kitchen, we’ve lost a fundamental key to civil society.
Michael Pollan, author of popular books such as The Food Movement, Rising and The Omnivore’s Dilemma states:
“In a challenge to second-wave feminists who urged women to get out of the kitchen, [Janet] Flammang suggests that by denigrating “foodwork”—everything involved in putting meals on the family table—we have unthinkingly wrecked one of the nurseries of democracy: the family meal. It is at “the temporary democracy of the table” that children learn the art of conversation and acquire the habits of civility—sharing, listening, taking turns, navigating differences, arguing without offending—and it is these habits that are lost when we eat alone and on the run.”
In Janet Flammang’s book The Taste for Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society, the political scientist writes:
“Significant social and political costs have resulted from fast food and convenience foods … grazing and snacking instead of sitting down for leisurely meals, watching television during mealtimes instead of conversing viewing food as fuel rather than sustenance, discarding family recipes and foodways, and denying that eating has social and political dimensions.”
Being an individualistic society, we dropped many of our social formalities long ago. This includes the roles each member of a family must assume. Grandparents are sent to nursing homes, instead of being an active part of the household, single parents struggle to raise children on their own, children are not taught to respect their elders or engage in conversation.
During my five years in Korea, a collectivist society in which everyone strives to be part of the accepted norm, I was shocked to see how differently family members interact with each other, especially in regards to food. Food is shared and enjoyed together. Family recipes have been passed down from generation to generation for centuries and the pride of preparing a home cooked meal can be tasted in the food. Grandparents live with, or close to their children so they can be active in raising their grandchildren and because of this, the young ones learn social skills as well as the art of conversation. Though collectivist societies have many problems of their own, they do family much better than we do.
I’ve thought about this topic a great deal. It disturbs me how easily we have come to dismiss the importance of food and family. When I have children, I hope to designate suppertime as a sacred time. Time I will never get back, so I must use well. After losing my father four years ago, I have learned to take advantage of the time I have and to be conscious of what I must not take for granted. Food and family are both precious and must be treated with love and care.
Slow cookers help. A lot. Slow cooked dishes that you don’t have to fear will burn your house down are always helpful. This large batch of sauce was frozen in smaller batches and used for a multitude of meals: pizzas, pastas, crackers, rice and meats – this sauce goes with everything. Start your cooker before you go to bed or in the morning before you leave for work and come home to a homemade meal for you and your family to share.
Slow Cooker Tomato Sauce
- 15-20 quartered roma tomatoes
- 1 bulb (about a dozen cloves) of peeled and crushed garlic
- 2 chopped yellow onions
- 12 ounces of sliced crimini mushrooms
- 1/8 cup brown sugar
- 1 diced zucchini
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- optional: make it spicy with chilies – add to your preference
- optional: jerky – your choice (it softens and melts in your mouth)
Using a 6 quart slow cooker, place all of the ingredients in the crock and turn on low (8 hours)
Mix occasionally… or don’t. The slow cooker will work its magic.
If the finished product is too chunky, use an immersion blender to get a smoother sauce.
Top your plate of pasta with this stuff as well as Parmesan cheese and fresh basil, dip bread or crackers in this sauce for a bite of heaven, use it as a base for your hand made pizzas. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy it with someone you love.