Three Reasons To Gather Around The Dinner Table (Even If The Table Happens To Be In Eugenio’s Place)

by Becky on April 2, 2013 · 5 comments

in Food, Parenting, Travel

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The other night we stepped out for some paella Valenciana. I should point out first that here in Spain, we rarely sit down for a full meal out. With five (perennially) hungry people, eating out often would get pricey for us. But on a particular evening a couple of weeks ago, we got cozy around a table at Eugenio’s place, in Sagunt, where we had spent the afternoon hiking through Roman ruins.

Did I mention we were hungry? There was no way we were going to make it back to Barcelona without real food.

Enter Eugenio, whom I met when I walked into his little restaurant to ask how long it might take for him to make some paella for us.

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Three things struck me as my family clustered around a large table on which sat a large, round pan of the most amazing paella I’ll probably ever be privileged to inhale during my natural lifetime.

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One.  Food makes people talkative.  As we ate, we chatted about the food: how rich it was, and how wonderfully good. But talk about food inevitably phases to talk about other things.  And pretty soon, you’re talking about All Kinds Of Stuff. Together. And between the food and the talk, you realize: Ah!–this is what mealtime is meant to be.  Moreover, sometimes quieter family members find their voice at the table, a distinct bonus.

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Two.  Moments spent eating together go right into each member’s cache of family memories.  Eugenio encouraged us to use the spoons he gave us, not just the forks.  He told us to scrape the bottom of the pan in order to get the socarrat–the layer of rice toasted in meat juices. So each of us scraped away, working to get the socarrat, which, as promised, was indeed rather mindblowingly savory. But it’s not just the taste I’ll remember; it’s all of us cleaning the bottom of the pan together. Food-turned-experience. Food-turned-memory. I believe just about any meal has the potential to be that!

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Three.  Wherever, whenever, whatever–just so it’s the fam.

So it doesn’t have to be paella.  Honest.  Some of our happiest dinner meals involve pancakes and homemade syrup.  The point is that we’re passing the syrup around, to each other. You do it enough times, it becomes a ritual. You learn how each member of the family likes their pancakes fixed: some with the syrup drizzled, some with it around the sides but not on top. As people settle into the meal, they relax, and the chatter starts. And often the laughter. Why people laugh so hard while they eat, I don’t know. If I had to say how many times one of my children had to leave the table because they were laughing so hard milk was about to come out their nose, I couldn’t do it.

It’s that combination of nourishment and family. Nothing beats a decent meal with your own little clan for making life seem downright good for a moment or two.

(Casa Eugenio:  Plaza Peixcateria, Sagunt.  96 266 58 31)

Jen April 4, 2013 at 5:32 pm

OK – hands down, this may be one of my favorite blogs. I remember all of the wonderful meals in Europe and sitting around the table chatting with either Miss Lavendar or Eleven )’Clock mom about the scarf they had just purchased, the coolest European thrift store they stumbled upon, where we were headed the next day, or which dessert each of us was going to order. I felt like all of us “connected” on a deeper level and I will always be grateful for that time.

With the transition in ou life right now our family is going through, we have decided that Sunday evening family meals are a new tradition we are starting….thank you Miss Becky for always reminding me of the importance of the simple, amazing things in life!

Becky April 4, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Cheers to you guys, then! May the family meals begin. And may there never be any shortage of things about which to talk and laugh while you enjoy a meal either simple or grand. We love you. xx

Kathy Crockett May 10, 2013 at 7:08 am

Oh how I love reading your blog. You write so discriptively that i want to do what you are doing. Thanks so much. Have a great weekend and a lovely Mother’s Day.

Becky May 13, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Happy Mother’s Day back, sweet cousin. Hope it was the loveliest day ever! xx

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