~the following is N°1 in the series, Tutti a tavola // Come to the table~
Although summer of 2020 may look quite different than past summers, one thing remains the same– our need for gathering around the table as a family each evening. In fact, the warm Italian invitation, Tutti a tavola! // Come to the table! has come to mean even more to us in these desolate times. Coming to the table to eat a meal together allows for the connection, conversation and nourishment we so desperately need; it is so comforting to slow down and enjoy a meal tutti insieme // all together because…
It’s when we get to hear about the good and bad parts of each other’s day; when we get to find out about what each of us is excited or nervous or frustrated about; it’s a great time to brainstorm and plan or share about an idea one of us has. There is nothing quite like gathering around a table that gets us to open up. What an incredible way to show our love for each other by taking time to stop and sit; to eat and enjoy; to listen and share.
In my home growing up, dinner together was non-negotiable and one of the most important things my mom modeled for me. And now, in the midst of virtual work meetings, distance learning schedules and zoom conferences, it really makes me smile to hear my sons ask, “When’s dinner?” or “Can we have dinner a little earlier or later because of this or that?” because I know it means something to them too.
On an especially frustrating or long day, I love to ask for dinner ideas to help inject a little more “buy in”. Many times, the requests revolve around some type of meat and this particularly sultry summer day was no different. Ben injected just a little twist to address the fact that it was hot out– “Oh!! How about steak salad?” And just like that, things started to look up. Everyone was in, including me, and I got right to work. First, a quick trip to our local market… into my cart went organic red leaf lettuce, living butter lettuce, a red onion, a couple heirloom tomatoes, some flap steak, a baguette, couscous, and burrata.
I asked Bert to fire up the grill and seasoned the steak with a little kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and olive oil. Then I chopped up the lettuce leaves and got to work on a simple vinaigrette. I whisked together one part pomegranate red wine vinegar, three parts extra virgin olive oil, the zest and juice of one lemon, a dollop of dijon mustard, a little diced shallot, salt and pepper. I cooked up some israeli couscous and added in a lot of olive oil, lemon juice and chopped parsley, a little diced red onion along with salt and pepper.
Next I chopped the heirloom tomatoes and dressed them with a little olive oil, red wine vinegar, chopped oregano and basil, salt and crushed red pepper. I sliced the burrata and drizzled a little olive oil, and then sprinkled some kosher salt over that. Bert brought in the steak and sliced it up. I added it to the bowl of chopped lettuce, tossed it all with some dressing and dinner was ready. Fresh, simple, satisfying and most importantly, it brought us together. The lively conversation was music to my ears.
Coming together doesn’t need to be complicated. You just need to make time. I am so glad I have continued this tradition with my family and here are some things to keep in mind if you decide to as well:
- It’s never too soon or too late to start; trust me, you’ll just be so glad you decided to do it!
- If eating dinner together everyday is daunting, start with a couple times a week.
- It doesn’t have to be a formal thing; it can be a simple meal, a fancy one, one course or a few, homemade or take out… anything will do.
- When your schedule changes, simply adjust. When swim practice moved to 5:00, we started eating dinner later and built in heartier snacks to tie us over. Or as the boys’ social calendars got busier (especially on the weekends), we opted for brunch or lunch together. Even having dessert together can work. The key is being together and valuing that time enough to make it happen.
Valuing meal time together is a powerful thing. Even after so many years, I find myself instinctively calling my mom as I start to work on dinner. She wants to know what I am making and can’t wait to tell me what she had to eat. We still take time to share about our days. Similarly, it makes me smile when Matthew (while away at college) calls me on his way to the dining hall. I can’t help but ask about what he’ll be having and more importantly about how he is doing. It’s the closest to having dinner together when we can’t be around the same table.
So, as they say in Italy… “Tutti at tavola!”— “Come to the table!” You’ll be so glad you did!
Check out this other great recipe to enjoy on a hot summer day, Pasta d’Estate // Summer Pasta.
And, coming soon, a little more about another popular Italian saying, “Butta la pasta!” along with some more of our favorite pasta recipes.