A series of television ads have been telling Moms to get out of the kitchen! (I suppose there might be a few men stuck in there.) Hey, what are you cooking for? Don’t you know that your kids would rather have junk food and see more of you?
This surprised me a lot. I do cook most meals, bake bread, cakes, cookies and pies, make jam, and oh, all that. But I didn’t realize that I was denying our family anything by doing so.
One ad shows the big greasy bucket of KFC (overseas readers, this is Kentucky Fried Chicken, a venerable American food product available in chain restaurants) on the patio table, Mom kicking around a soccer ball with the offspring. (Dad may be in the garage having a quiet beer and muttering to himself about home-cooked dinners.) “Spend more time with your family!”
At the cost of their heart health, their digestive systems and your wallet, of course.
What is wrong with this picture? Why isn’t the whole family in the kitchen, Dad slicing tomatoes for the salad, little Sarah setting the table, little Aaron filling water glasses, Mom taking the casserole out of the oven? Or is the kitchen such a depressing place that the family must avoid it for the sake of their mental stability?
I’m rarely alone in the kitchen for long. My husband will sit with me while I cook, chatting, especially if I make a cup of tea for him. Mother Kay likes to offer a helping hand, and Patience has to be chased away from the hot stove, since she thinks “Me cook!” is the best game in the world. Even the dogs hang out if I don’t make them stay at the doorsill. Our kitchen is the heart of the home, something happening most of the time, or about to happen, or has just happened (which means we are at the table eating.)
Okay, I’m home through the day, but I don’t always make elaborate meals. Sometimes I pop a burger or two on the grill. Sometimes we have cold meals. It makes no difference. A lot of tea and coffee and wine are drunk in the kitchen, stories told, laughter passed along. The littlest one spends half her day in there, at her play kitchen or helping me. She has her own child-sized table and chairs, as well as a place at the “big” table. We watch television, and work at the computer, but our time together is in the kitchen, and we make the most of it.
For tens of thousands of years, the family has gathered at the campfire or hearth. We share the most in our lives over food. We sustain each other with love and unmitigated approval as well as with bread. We gather at the table when we need that bracing cup of tea after a bad shock. We head there when we are chilled or wet with weather.
God gave us the right sign in the sacrament of communion, bread and wine – and we gather at His kitchen table to share it.