Gathering ‘Round The Table

In a perfect world, your dining table would be the place where everyone gathers, smiling, a bounty of food to be had that everyone enjoys. Reality- sometimes the table can be peaceful, but also it can be a place of contention, picky eaters, and silence because we are distracted by our phones. As someone who bares my soul when I create a meal, I find it particularly disturbing that we (present company included) have a tendency to absorb ourselves in technology when we need to connect to other humans who are sitting right in front of us (unless those people are on a video chat).

Here’s a great opportunity to practice being mindful. Mindfulness is simply being more aware; this practice helps us be more present in a non-judgmental way. I hope these mindful etiquette tips will help make your meals more pleasant. The idea behind these are to be thoughtful and considerate to your table mates. Sometimes, we are blissfully unaware that our behavior at the table has been conditioned by years of complacency. Let’s help each other create new habits that foster mindfulness and a sense of togetherness. I would love to know if you try any of these and how it worked for you!

  1. Cook together

I am a social person, and I love people. So for me, when someone asks if they can cook with me, I am thrilled! However, these days in quarantine, my husband (pictured) and I have divided up responsibilities, and cooking and maintaining our home have become my main tasks to keep our world balanced as best we can.

2. Actually sit at your dining table.

Studies have found that when you eat somewhere consistently, whether it’s your couch, desk or dining table, you may experience hunger cues just by being there! Who knew eating in front of the TV could elicit a Pavlovian response? Check out this interesting article from the NY Times (1982) archive.

3. Delegate tasks

For example; setting the table, clearing the table, packing away any leftovers to repurpose the next day, etc. Use rock, paper, scissors- best 2 out of 3 if you must. If this were the 1950’s, the housewife guide would assign these tasks to the “lady” of the house. Thankfully this is not the 1950’s and these are tasks that should be shared among partners, family members, whoever is in your home, regardless of gender.

4. Turn off anything distracting and talk to each other.

Turn off your cell phone while sitting together (no social media, no news- for the love of God no news, no games, etc.) UNLESS- you are all watching and talking about something together, like that pizza review guy, (but still-take a break from the news).

5. Eat together.

Try to have everyone sit down together at the same time. Eating together can create so many teachable moments for your little ones, such as communication and manners. Plus, research from the University of Oxford has “revealed that the more often people eat with others, the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives” (University of Oxford, 2017).

6. Have a conversation.

Each person could bring 3 talking points to dinner. Maybe you’re reading something interesting? Celebrity say or do something wacky? Can’t wait to gush over a new series or movie you saw? Create a conversation around it, then let it flow naturally. Need a more meaningful connection? Check out Michael Hyatt’s advice, if you are at his dinner table you might be asked open-ended questions like:

  • What is your idea of a perfect vacation?
  • If you could design your ideal job, what would it look like?
  • What is the best book you have read in the last 12 months and why?
  • What is the most important lesson you learned from your parent/caregiver?
  • When is your very favorite thing about your spouse?
  • If you were by yourself, and could listen to any music you want, what would it be?
  • If you could spend a day with anyone on the planet, who would it be?
  • What it is like to be your friend? or to be married to you?
  • If you were suddenly the President of the U.S., what would you do first?
  • Looking back over your life, what would you describe as your proudest moment?

7. Common courtesies.

Chew with your mouth closed.  Elbows off the table. Don’t point or gesture with your silverware. Don’t take it from me, visit Emily Post’s site for endless lists on manners and etiquette.

8. Be gracious.

Compliment your Chef if you like the food, keep your mouth shut if you don’t. Like my grandmother always said, “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.”

These last two are for bonus points:

9. Offer the party who cooked a massage.

10. If you are really good, offer the party who cooked a pedicure!

We can do this! “All for one, and one for all!” The Three Musketeers. Alexandre Dumas

Stay tuned for tomorrows post about creating ambiance!

Happy Cooking!

xo Liz


The University of Oxford. Social Eating Connects Communities.