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How Do You Keep Family Dinner?

September 18, 2014

Do you have dinner plans for this coming Monday? September 22 is Family Day in the U.S. (Family Day is the third Monday in February in most of Canada).

Family Day in the U.S. started with CASA, the Columbia University initiative to promote family dinners, because of their research on the importance of family connections in combating early use of drugs by teens. I based my Whatever Happened to Dinner book on the CASA research. At first CASA organizers called it “Family Dinner Day” but now it has been widened to simply celebrate families, and what this ancient cultural grouping of family means for our lives and society.

Here’s a link to the series of 4 guest blogs post I ran last year on eating together, and what mealtime can offer for families and other groups with whom you experience community or neighborliness.

This year, I’m delighted to announce two things related to my book focusing on keeping family mealtime, Whatever Happened to Dinner?

1. The book was selected for the 2015 United Methodist Women’s Reading Program and is featured on their website and program materials under a wonderful tab that is right up this book’s alley, “Nurturing for Community.” I’m very excited.




First a word about this reading program. It is awesome. It nudges, nay, almost requires women who are active in their women’s programs to read at least five recommended books in the course of a year, over a variety of genres. Or, they can sign up to read 10, 15 or 20. The United Methodists are a huge denomination, around 80,000 congregations, the second largest Protestant denomination after Southern Baptists. (I remember when I lived in northern Florida, there were two main churches in town, and everyone was either Methodist or Baptist. Yes?) It’s one way that particular denomination works at Christian education or faith formation. You can request their brochure or catalog about the reading program to see how it works. When my very first book, On Troublesome Creek, was picked for the reading program back in the early 80s, it sent the book into a reprint and the editor declared “We love United Methodist women.” Me too.

2. An updated cover. To fulfill the order this time around, the publisher (Herald Press, which I now work for, but I did not  when it was first published) had to print more copies too. So the cover designer, Reuben Graham, took the opportunity to freshen up the cover. Can you spot the changes? Which do you like better??


It took a few years to be chosen for the program (jumping through hoops) but I’m thrilled that the movement and emphasis on the importance of eating together as families as often as possible has taken root and grown immensely in these past four years.

Growth of movement. Just this fall Forbes website had an article called “The Most Important Meal of the Day: Family Dinner.” (Don’t despair: if work schedules make evening impossible, they recommend trying breakfast. It works for some.)

An impressive group of researchers, educators, parents, social workers and more out of Harvard began what they call The Family Dinner Project and share the stories and experiences of families who have made a concentrated effort to eat together frequently, and what changes that brought to their family. I like their “Community blog” feature on this topic, too.

Another website called Power of Family Meals has a bunch of resources and links to check out.

My Facebook page Whatever Happened to Dinner shares new links, ideas, videos and pictures on an ongoing basis, and I’d love to share your story or family dinner links there as well.

Since I wrote the book, on one end my family is back to how we started out: just the two of us, but my husband and I sit down and eat a home cooked meal together at our island at least 4-5 nights a week, mostly with the TV on mute.


We then usually enjoy dessert together in the living room. I just can’t imagine our day without that purposeful connection. It is the one time we pray together, and take turns. I often find out what’s really on my husband’s heart as we pray.

And we’re thrilled that our expanded family table has now grown a bit.


On the other hand, I’m mindful of the many folks I know who now constitute a household of one.


That has its good points too when it comes to fixing meals: you can fix what you want, eat when you want, with much less work. For companionship, people like my mother seek out group settings as often as possible, and welcome or extend invitations to eat out with others, potlucks, or do as a large group from my church does:  they keep a once-a-month date on Sundays after church and  head to a local buffet, Dutch treat. I recently joined a local Lions Club with my husband which eats together twice a month for their meetings. These are all ways to keep the connections we all need. To stay healthy, we need not only good food and nutrition, but good people around us.

So what’s on your menu for Monday evening? Who can you share it with–or another meal, sometime soon? If you have older children at home, what’s on the conversational menu? And if you need a reminder of what NOT to talk about at family dinner, here’s the T-shirt reminder.

whatNottotalkabout whatnottotalkabout2


I’d love to speak to your group about this topic or any other on my list. See also special offer for three free books for your group.


From → Faith, Family Life, Food

  1. This post really hit me in a positive way. I have heard about the research on the reduction of juvenile delinquency in homes where there are shared meals.

    In our home, family meals were always the practice and both of our children have come on board with it in their own homes – one from the beginning and the other belatedly. Now as empty nesters Cliff and I have moved from the kitchen table to the dining room table which is always kept set as “decoration.” Because our chairs are more cushy for old bones, we usually eat in the dining room where it’s cooler and quieter. Sometimes I light the e-candles. It’s a wonderful time to close the gap in what we are thinking and doing as we catch up on the minutiae of the day. Occasionally, we take our meals downstairs and watch a movie.

    I’m going to post this on Facebook. And by the way, I vote for the cover A because the word “dinner” is more prominent, emphasizing the point of the book.

    • I like your rationale on the cover. I like the looks of cover B (and thanks for giving them handles) but you are right about dinner.

      I do like eating at the dining room table better–I may go back to that too. In our old home when the children were home, we only had one table–which was all the project table, the homework table, my writing table (until we got a computer).

      Eating together was just what we did–no second thoughts or “working” at purposely (oh it was work to be sure), bit it was just life. Right? Thanks for your comment and for sharing on FB!

  2. Athanasia permalink

    I like cover A as you are seeing the whole title at once and the author name.

    • I hadn’t noticed those things! The designer was looking for a cleaner and more contemporary look but you make excellent points! Thanks, Athanasia. 🙂

      • Athanasia permalink

        Yes I agree that B is a much more contemporary look. More the style of cover art see now. The word dinner fades out though. Maybe he could darken up a bit behind it so that is stands out more clearly. Glad to see no one messed with with the dog 🙂

  3. I say B is way better. I say good for Reuben.

  4. I wondered if someone would have an opposite opinion! Thanks, SK.

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