Dinner gives a sense of belonging, fellowship, and accomplishment to the dining experience. This feeling is easy to have at college, and I think that as students who make an effort to have dinner at home can build better relationships with our family. Whether the day is tumultuous or riveting, boring or exciting, good or bad, dinner is there at the end of all of it.
As a college student, breakfast and lunch go by with a flick of the fork. At breakfast, everyone at the table is getting their mind ready for the day ahead – meetings, workouts, classes, and the conversation sounds like, “well, what are you going to do today?” It sounds like a challenge and if I’m still daydreaming from the sleep last night it may sound like someone poking me to get up. Breakfast food, many times, is a chore to make.
You have to add milk to your cereal for it to become a meal, cream of wheat needs a slab of butter, and pancakes and waffles require syrup to be painted on. Too much trouble. What pairs with food better than a drink? Well for breakfast, what pairs better with your warm toast and sweet jam than cold-pucker-face orange juice? Breakfast is like a yield sign before getting on the highway; some might enjoy it but all we’re really doing is watching the food go down before we be on our merry way.
Lunch is like every cartoon I watched because it was a childhood favorite. I was never one to put my parents up to getting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on my lunch box, nor did I have this peanut butter and jelly on white bread. Overrated. Pb&j always presented itself on wholegrain bread, and jelly was made from baby blueberries. My parents really did try to keep me away from snack foods like Cheetos and Doritos and leaning on fruit to go with my lunchtime sandwich.
Going into college makes meals simple. Eggs for breakfast. Pizza or sandwich for lunch. What is this? There are three entrée’s for dinner? I get to choose? I get to choose. I get to choose! Already, breaking free from the monotony of breakfast and lunch dinner has won. The fastest way to my heart is through my stomach and thanks to the free will that dinner has to offer, it has put a smile on my face.
The dining room has become the sole place that gathers everyone from all corners of the school. I can sit down next to the computer science kid who, watches movie trailers on his phone. This is the perfect place to eat without having to put down the fork and pick up a conversation.
What if I want to feel acknowledged for eating healthy and putting extra vegetables on my plate? Have a seat right next to our health science and nutrition students. Dinner has gone from being a break from school to being a hands-on lesson.
The art students bring dinner back to its roots when food was put on a plate to be played with. After a couple hours and a George Seurat painting in the couscous dinner becomes a meal of camaraderie and there is a sense of accomplishment.
The same feeling can happen at home. Coming home for a holiday or a weekend means that the family is bound to have dinner together. Siblings will do something radical like schedule time for the family and parents will be home from work. The student’s week is done. The presentations, the papers, the tests, are now accomplishments to be talked about over the dinner table. Acceptance is passed around like side dishes. Relationships flow smooth like tea from a kettle. Dinner doesn’t just bring us together, it brings us closer.