Oh, the memories one slightly chipped white marble table and four well-worn midnight blue vinyl chairs can hold…
There are those long ago home-cooked memories of Aunt Ana’s cabbage bundles, my mom’s hearty beef stew, spaghetti and meat sauce, mashed potatoes out of a box (tsk, tsk!), lettuce (iceberg, of course), tomato and cucumber salads, green peas patiently stabbed on to forks tines then gobbled down with abandon, lima beans…mmm…, ice water and milk to drink, rhubarb-and-boysenberry cobbler with fruit picked fresh from our garden, and my all-time favorite — tuna-noodle casserole.
Flash forward 20-plus years and that table is still creating wonderful family memories.
The iceberg has been replaced with romaine and kale. The mashed potatoes are often homemade and never out of a box. The tuna-noodle casserole and spaghetti and meatballs are as delicious as ever, but now made with gluten-free noodles. There still is milk to drink, but the ice water might be sparkling water. And those glorious green peas still grace the table, waiting to be stabbed and gobbled up. Sadly, unlike me at their age, my own children refuse lima beans.
I have my parents to thank for these memories, and for this beautifully banged up table which followed us on moves from my parents' house in San Diego to temporary homes in Dallas and Falls Church, before coming back again to San Diego, where it currently resides on our front deck for dining al fresco all year round.
Although the food has changed a little over the years, it still is nourishing and home-cooked with love, save for those crazy busy school night and sports nights when nothing but a quick takeout meal or a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup will do.
Conversation at the table is encouraged to be sure, and, save for a few family rules noted below, no topic is off limits.
8 Rules for EA Stewart's Family Dinners
- Be polite. Manners, pleases and thank-yous are musts!
- Fruit is served with every meal. Even if they don’t eat their veggies, I know my kids will eat some fruit.
- No one is forced to eat anything they do not like. Period.
- No one can say, “I don’t like it,” unless they have tried it.
- Negative talk towards oneself, or others, is not allowed.
- No one is made to finish their meal. That’s what refrigerators and freezers are for!
- Laughter. Lots and lots of it, is another must!
- Oh, and try really, really hard not to feed the dog at the table, even if he’s looking at you with big puppy dog eyes!
One day, hopefully, my children will create new memories at this table with a fourth generation. But, unlike myself, an only child, there are two of them. Perhaps one will get the table, and one will get the chairs. Until then, we will continue creating new memories, and reliving old ones, at our beloved table. I hope you are busy creating your own family mealtime memories as well!