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Kitchen is family's epicenter

Agriculture.com Staff 02/16/2006 @ 2:13pm

I have a small wall hanging in my kitchen that says, "The kitchen is the heart of the home."

Sure, holiday dinners and receptions may take place at the dining room table, set with fine china and silverware. But we all know that the most significant events occur at the kitchen table.

This remains true for farm families, despite the changes in our world that have reduced the family dinner hour of the '50s to a 20-minute free-for-all fractured by telemarketers and TV shows.

A 2005 Successful Farming panel survey indicates that families ate dinner together five of the last seven days.

Nutritionists and sociologists cite four reasons for making family meals a priority at least three nights a week.

Sharing what's been going on in your daily lives. Technology simplifies meals but can fracture family life if members won't take a break from cell phones, instant messaging, DVDs, computer games, MP3 devices, and TV.

With the national concern about childhood obesity, another good reason for eating together at home is the nutritional benefit. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a study of more than 18,000 kids, indicates that parental presence at the evening meal is associated with an adolescent's higher intake of dairy foods, fruits, and vegetables, as well as the likelihood of eating breakfast.

Conversational and social skills suffer, too, when family mealtimes are regarded as an outdated tradition. When is the last time you attended a family get-together where you participated in a lively discussion of current events or colorful storytelling?

Last, but not least, The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse has shown that children who eat dinner more often with their families are less likely to smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs. Sitting around the family circle is a subtle reminder that you're part of a group of people who care about you.

Farm women know that kitchen tables aren't only for eating meals. A table's best use is for stacking newspapers, farm magazines, and bills. Rearranging clutter prior to each meal is a given.

The farm kitchen table serves other unique dimensions. It is a site for impromptu family business meetings, it is a boardroom for detailing daily work agendas, and it is a place to draw up transition plans to pass the farm to the next generation.

Maybe that's why the following poem resonates with me. I hope that you can relate to it, too.

Cheryl Tevis can be reached at cheryl.tevis (at) meredith.com.

Perhaps The World Ends Here

By Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
The table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table, we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

From Sweeping Beauty - Contemporary Women Poets Do Housework.

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