Part cookbook, part reflection on the changing role of dinner in our culture and part celebration of family and community—that's what you'll find in Whatever Happened to Dinner? by Melodie M. Davis. It's a book that invites people to eat together, even as it acknowledges the challenges of living in a culture that often pulls us apart.
"This book attempts to be an honest appraisal of family meal customs of the past while sending a clear invitation to reexamine our lifestyles of thrashing about madly in relentless activity. It is a road map—or at least ideas—for how to manage regular family mealtimes, along with simple quick recipes and more complicated dishes. It is an examination of the role food and mealtime play in the family and a reminder of how God gave us the good gift of food." Melodie M. Davis
I was intrigued by this book's title, because, sadly, we hear so much of that sentiment nowadays. The cover suggests (at least that's how read it) that the dog is the only one who shows up and he's wondering what happened to dinner. Really clever! In today's fast paced world, family dinners seem to be a lost art, and not enough people care enough to do something about it. Melodie Davis has addressed the issue with this beautiful and well-thought out volume. Each chapter discusses some of the topics mentioned above, is woven together with a fitting Bible story, and ends with a few recipes.
There are so many aspects about this book that resonated with me: enjoying wholesome home-grown, and home-cooked food, comfort foods and memories, recycling and reusing, family and communal mealtimes, to name a few.
The main thread throughout is the benefits and blessings of families making time to sit round the dinner table and eating together, at least a few times a week. I love this quote from the book which sums it up rather nicely:
"Someone has pointed out that meals prepared and served to a group of people or family take on a certain ritual quality:food is prepared, the table is set, people are called to the table, grace or prayers are said, the food passed. Rituals like this bring people together in common, routine experiences that can be a calming balm after a busy day. Eating food together is a bonding experience that can ease tension, make conversation go easier, make strangers less self-conscious. Mealtimes may be one of the oldest rituals known to humans."I was reminded of our own ritual of communal meals, and how here too, sadly enough, it's being taken for granted, and people often just don't seem to appreciate this 'gathering round the table' experience that is such an essential element of any Christian community. To quote from my own book, Hutterite Diaries: "Each time I sit here, I'm reminded that we're not just here for "bread alone" but rather because "all believers were together and had everything in common." (Acts 2:44) Even though every meal is a feast, it's about so much more than that. It's stopping what we're doing and 'breaking bread' with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Which sometimes means sharing in someone's joy or grief and celebrating the blessings of community -- one of them being, every meal is being prepared for me. It's a chance to pause and reflect on some of life's most beautiful gifts: faith, family, friends, fellowship and food.
My sincere thanks to Melodie M. Davis and Herald Press for providing me with a complimentary review copy of this beautiful book. I'd like to put it on the keeper shelf, but I'm leaning more towards sharing it with someone else as a Christmas gift.