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  • Preserving the Family Meal
    Doing my part to eliminate fast food families...
    Una Mamma Italiana

    by Tiffany Longo

    I could never imagine taking my great grandparents to a drive-thru for dinner. They would surely be coming after me with a wooden spoon. A burger and fries….or let me rephrase that - an order of grease - could never be dinner to them. After all, there was much more to dinner than just the food we were eating.

    Dinner meant the entire family sitting together at a table eating a home cooked meal. Everyone did their part to help, and the results boasted the love that went into it. As kids, our faces were beaming with the pride of being little helpers. Unlike kids today, we wanted to help out. We got our own aprons, and of course it didn't hurt that we were promised the first taste of whatever was cooking! Face it - family dinners were the best.

    Today, it seems like most family dinners happen around the steering wheel as opposed to the kitchen table. Think about what is being lost through this - family conversations, good home-cooked meals…. When your food is purchased, cooked, and eaten all in a matter of minutes, it can't be that good. Not to mention, good for you. And although the thought of slaving over the stove for hours is somewhat discouraging, it's just one of those things you must sum up as just another labor of love.

    If anyone understands these disheartening sentiments, it's me. I'll admit it - this “mamma italiana” can sometimes feel the temptation to buy a jar of pre-made pasta sauce. Sometimes, life is just too crazy to think of scratch cooking every night. With three kids (four if you count my husband), laundry, bills, and writing, cooking dinner doesn't exactly fall in line with my end-of-day plans to wind down. Instead, it means I'll be likely standing by the stove for an hour, serving a decent meal, and quickly eating whatever my kids (all 'four' of them) haven't already claimed as theirs. Then, it's not even over because there's still cleanup!

    This kind of madness could drive anyone to choose a drive-thru over lasagne! But will I do it? No. Not I. Not this mamma italiana - one who has taken on the role of preserving Italian culture in today's families. After all, despite the complaining, I take pride in my duties as the mother of the house. I, like my mother and grandmother, will be the one remembered for making dinner possible with my home-cooked meals. And as I said, “dinner” means more than just what we eat that night. Dinner gives our family a chance to recap the day's events, tell stories, laugh, and of course, enjoy good food.

    So as difficult as it is in today's society, we Italian-Americans need to stay strong. We mustn't let the modern convenience of fast food take over our lives. (Let me be clear: every once in a while, it may be considered vitally necessary for survival. I may not be proud of it, but I'm not too proud to admit that I am far from perfect!) Nonetheless, just like we strive to keep alive the holiday traditions, and the family values, we must preserve the family dinner. After all, what happens around the family table can make memories and teach lessons that can't be found elsewhere.

    There's one lesson we try to teach our children with every meal, and that is to be thankful. We don't only wait for Thanksgiving every year to count our blessings. After all, not everyone is lucky enough to have dinner on the table every night. So we make sure to begin every meal with a prayer of thanksgiving. In doing this, we teach our children not to take for granted anything that they have. (It's not a bad reminder for us adults, either!) And as long as these thoughts never leave our minds, the family meal will live on for generations to come.

    Article Published 11/4/2008


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