CSU Extension Office: Conversation … it’s what’s for dinner
November 12, 2017
"Let me get this straight, were going to be eating with fifty people we don't know for four hours?" My husband was trying to wrap his head around the details of the evening I'd planned for us.
As a skeptical diner with a food-is-fuel philosophy, the prospect of spending the evening eating a seven course meal with strangers was less than thrilling. I, however, was in heaven. Admittedly we didn't know who we would be dining with, but for a foodie like myself, a dinner composed of small plates of locally-sourced food and wine sounded like a wonderful way to spend a coolish evening in the middle of mud season.
As we walked down Lincoln Avenue, we could see couples sauntering into Harwigs restaurant. The establishment was closed to the public this autumn evening so chefs and staff could host this Farm to Table shindig. All of the profits from this fundraiser would be going to the Community Agriculture Alliance and their mission to support agriculture in Northwest Colorado.
All of this makes me reflect on the fact that some of my favorite moments have happened over food. I'm not talking about the once-a-year turkey feast that happens each Thanksgiving or the annual over-the-top Mother's Day brunch buffet. I'm talking about the day-to-day conversations that happen with uninterrupted meals with family members, co-workers and friends.
In our family, it is a priority to eat together. Sometimes that is dinner or breakfast, sometimes it is homemade or takeout. The most important feature is regular conversation, without distractions. We make a habit of sharing the days challenges and successes with each other and any family friends who are around at mealtime. It is the foundation of our family communication and how we get to know our son's friends.
I worry for the loss for shared meals as a connection point for families and communities. People everywhere are pressed for time and often it is shared mealtime that is sacrificed. Work, sports and school activities eventually control all of your time and you end up grabbing a bite while rushing to the next event or eating in front of a computer screen.
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The conversation time that you have when you sit down and share food is a reflection of your overall connection to friends and family members. Studies have shown that children who eat meals with their families are socially, emotionally and physically healthier.
As food journalist Michael Pollan puts it, "Food is more than the sum of its nutrients and a diet is more that the sum of its foods. … Food is about pleasure, about community, about family and spirituality, about our relationship to the natural world, and about expressing our identity."
Our farm-to-table dining experience with eight relative strangers had us ending the evening with eight new friends. We all came from vastly different generations, professions and life experiences but because we took the time to talk over a meal together, we built a bond.
Establishing good routines around food can happen within your family, work space and community. There are several places around Steamboat Springs to share meals. Check out Open Table Thursday Dinners — every Thursday from 5 to 7:00 p.m. at the Heart of Steamboat United Methodist Church, 736 Oak St. in Steamboat. Whether you are a busy family meeting for a meal between sports practices or taking a break from cooking, enjoy a free meal and some good company.
The community Thanksgiving Day dinner will once again be provided by Routt County United Way at the Steamboat Springs Community Center at 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 23. Everyone is invited including visitors, seniors, college students, residents — anyone wanting to spend Thanksgiving meeting new people or meeting up with old friends.
This is Karen Massey’s last article written as a CSU Extension Agent. In the future, she and her husband will be splitting our time between Colorado and thier sailboat in the Bahamas. Check out her personal blog, Life in the Boat — lifeintheboat.com about life in Steamboat "the Boat," and Snowcat, their catamaran.