The Sanctity of the Table

Warm, welcoming meals begin with the table. That is where it all happens. Or does it? It seems that the supersonic speed of today’s society is taking its toll on meal times. Think back to the times of “Leave it to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best”. These television families spent a lot of time around the average kitchen table. It was here that they broke bread together, learned about everyone’s day and truly connected.

There are many fixtures that are found in the home, but none that are quite as important as the dinner table. It is a multi-functional magic place. It is here we are fed, nourished, and replenished from the demands of the day.

Finding a time when all of the family members can sit down together at the dinner table can be like working a Rubik’s Cube. Less than half of American families today eat dinner together, and when they do the meals last less than 20 minutes. Our lifestyles have changed from those less-complicated days. Thanks to the internet, cell phones, and palm pilots, business is conducted on an almost 24/7 basis. Outside activities for children have become almost unbearable in the demands made upon the family. It has become a race against time to fit it all in. Something has to give, and all too often it is the family dinner.

Does it matter whether today’s families eat dinner together? Yes, it does. The family as an institution is under attack, and the adversary is working overtime to destroy individual families. All across the country families are falling apart. Many families are splintered by conflicting work schedules. Family mealtime is irregular, if at all, and microwave ovens and fast foods have robbed us of mealtime rituals.

When we squeeze out the family dinner we sacrifice more than you could ever imagine. According to studies conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, children who eat dinner with their families regularly are less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol than those who do not. Those who have two or less meals a week together are three times as likely to try marijuana, two and half times as likely to smoke cigarettes and one and half times as likely to try alcohol.Children who grow up eating dinner with their families are simply better off than those who do not. They tend to get better grades, exhibit less stress and eat better. The gathering together also provides a comfort zone in this crazy world in which we live.

Once the family dinner table establishes itself as a friendly time for conversation, parents can insert discussions on “parenting topics” into the dinner table conversation. These topics include, drug abuse, smoking, drinking, fighting, academics, college, careers, peer pressure, dating relationships, parenting, sports, etc.

If you’re sharing a meal, you are most likely talking while you eat. Kids will often share things and talk casually while relaxing during dinner. It’s a time to unwind and discuss the day’s events. Use this time to check up on what’s going on in their lives, encourage them and compare schedules. Find out the latest classroom gossip or just what’s playing at the movies. The subject won’t matter as much as the fact that you are taking time to visit with one another. Please remember that not just physical needs are met at the dinner table. Emotional and spiritual tendering also takes place there. Good meals at home satisfy emotional hungers as real as hunger in the belly, and nothing else does so in the same way. They promote affection and intimacy among those who share them. Characteristic, familiar styles of cooking, foods that ‘taste like home,’ are central to each home’s feelings of security and comfort. When a home gives up its hearth, which in the modern world is its kitchen, it gives up its focus. (The word ‘focus’ is Latin for ‘hearth.’) And the people who live there lose theirs too.

Counting our blessings over the table starts the celebration of the meal. It is a time to reflect upon life’s goodness, our lives and thanking God for what we are about to receive. At this time we should also remember those who don’t have enough to eat or even have a table.

Give thanks for the glories of the table, do it regularly and with sincerity. I know you will feel more connected to those you love ― and to the food you eat. The best way to bring back the family dinner is to make it a part of your daily routine. Strive to make dinner time the same time every evening and stick to it every possible time. Communicate with every family member that dinner will be served at a specified time and expect all to be present.
Culinary blessings,
Chef Mary

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Luscious Lemons

country lemon pie

I love lemons.  Love, love, love them!  Pucker up everyone, because we are going to take a journey to learn all the many benefits of living by loving lemons.  Sometimes only seen as the sour yellow cousin of the mighty orange or the accompanying garnish in your favorite libations, the lemon just finishes it off.  They are one of the very few fruits which can be used well in both sweet and savory dishes and they are available all year long.  Lemons are more commonly known as the fruit that evokes images of sunshine and the sweet smiles of children standing in front of their homemade lemonade stands.  While most lemons are tart, acidic and astringent, they are also surprisingly refreshing.

Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C, containing about one-third more than limes. They both add flavor to dishes, which can be helpful if you’re cutting back on salt.  Owing to the multitude of vitamin C’s health benefits, it is not surprising that research has shown that consumption of vegetables and fruits high in this nutrient is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke and cancer.

The next time life hands you lemons …… make lemon meringue pie!

Culinary blessings,

Chef Mary

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Luscious Lemon Meringue Pie

1/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup cake flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon rind
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
MERINGUE TOPPING
5 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400. On a lightly floured surface, roll out your favorite pie dough recipe to a thickness of 1/8 inch, and use to line a 9-10 inch pie tin. Crimp the edges and chill until firm.  If you are in a hurry feel free to use pie dough sheets found in the refrigerator case of your local supermarket.

  • In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and cream to make a glaze. Prick the bottom of the shell with a fork, brush the top edges with the glaze, and line with parchment paper. Weight the shell with pie weights or dried beans, and bake until the edges begin to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove paper and weights; continue baking until golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes more. Let cool.
  • To make filling, combine cornstarch, cake flour, salt, and sugar in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add 2 cups cold water. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly, about 4 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from heat. Temper egg yolks by beating a small amount of hot mixture into the yolks before adding them to pan. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from heat, and whisk in the lemon juice and rind. Add the butter one piece at a time. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, and let cool. Pour the filling into the cooled shell and refrigerate, covered with foil, until firm, about 1 hour.
  • To make the meringue, combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a heat-proof bowl. Set over a pan of simmering water; beat until warm and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl from heat; whip into stiff peaks.
  • Spread the meringue over pie so that it touches crust all around. Broil until brown, about 2 minutes, watching constantly. Serve at room temperature.

Bon Appetit!

Jody Todd
Freelance Graphic Designer
http://ravegraphicdesign.com
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