When we eat, we engage all of our senses. It’s an important part of our day to pay attention to. When you’re rushing through a meal without being present, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Food connects us to people. We build stronger memories when food is attached, and children who learn more about their families have higher self esteem than those who don’t know their histories. Dinner can seem like an unimportant part of a busy day, but we’re here to convince you otherwise and to show you how to make it manageable.
Reducing Prep Time
The biggest reason people decide to eat out or heat up a frozen meal is time, but there are plenty of quick recipes with easy clean up that will leave you feeling more fulfilled. Your best friend is going to be a baking sheet with a silicone cover on it. You can roast veggies on this, then wipe the silicone sheet off once and return the pan right back to the cupboard. You only have to put away the ingredients and wash your plate off. Aluminum foil packets are really helpful when roasting fish and potatoes because you can throw all the ingredients into a marinade in minutes and it’ll be good to go when it comes out of the oven. A reusable alternative is a clay baking pot. Meal planning will help you map out what to purchase for each day of the week, and the possibilities are endless.
If you’re dining with others, ask for help! Dinner is more enjoyable when everyone pitches in a bit so no one is overwhelmed. My favorite dining memory was in a communal kitchen in Copenhagen–everyone pitched in a tiny bit of money to buy bulk ingredients, then a large group of us all worked together to make the dinner. Some of us sat at the table peeling vegetables, others made sauces and baked. It felt effortless since we split up the work, but the meal was fantastic. Afterwards, we streamlined the cleanup so it only took a few minutes.
While the food is cooking, set the table and make sure the dishwasher is unloaded. Use a tablecloth that can be easily washed. It makes dining a more luxe experience while helping a lot with cleanup. Our sense of smell is linked to taste, so putting a fresh cut floral arrangement as a centerpiece will make for a very enjoyable dining experience as long as it isn’t over powering–a more accessible option is a decorative candle.
For utensils and ceramics, use something that will add to the feeling that you are doing something good for yourself–use pretty plates that you’ll enjoy looking at and are easy to wash: something that will add to the ambiance and plating of the food. This doesn’t mean expensive china, just a quality reusable dining set that you can use for a long time. Dim the lights a bit so you can start to settle down.
Once everyone comes together, you really only need 10 minutes of conversation to get the feel-good endorphins that come with a sit down meal. Inviting a new friend that you don’t know well is a good way to challenge yourself to something new and strike up interesting conversation. Dinner is to connect people. As making time for a quality meal becomes easier for you, start to explore foods from other cultures. Pin a map up and check off countries. When we experience something new, we build new pathways in our brain and improve our cognitive skills.
If doing all of this sounds a bit tiring for you, don’t worry–we have an easy cleanup method that will allow you to enjoy the rest of your night. Everything you cooked with is already put away thanks to your handy reusable sheets and pockets. Plug your sink, run some water, and get it soapy. Collect all dirty dishes on a large serving tray, then let them soak in the soapy water while you tosh the table cloth in the wash and catch up on other little chores you need to do before bed. Then simply move the dishes into the dishwasher and run it–if you have others with you, do it all together. You’ll unload again before you start cooking tomorrow.
Once you get in the swing of things, you’ll be able to accomplish all of this in an hour. It’s time to bring the sit-down dinner back into American life.