What’s the recipe for a good family dinner?


Leave it to those same fine souls who brought us “cocoa powder” that tastes nothing like actual chocolate, in any form, to be up to their old hijinks when it comes to “fixing dinner.”

Food giant Nestle is now linking healthy families with gathering around the table at dinnertime in a new advertising campaign for their Stouffer’s brand. Called the Let’s Fix Dinner challenge, the ads encourage families to eat more meals together.

Granted, this is definitely an admirable goal.

I just hate when family members retreat to their own lonely corners to gnaw on old, cold bones, don’t you?

All kidding aside, the ads attempt to remind people that the hulking horizontal surface in their kitchen or dining room, so often surrounded by empty chairs, is not just a spot to drop mail or pay bills. No, it is an actual site designed for people to sit down and eat meals together.

Who knew?

TV time

Television is, of course, to blame for virtually everything we as a society do — and don’t — like about ourselves. Our eating habits are no different.

Since the day the first TV dinner rolled off an assembly line around the 1950s, we as a society developed a love affair with dining in our living rooms.

TV dinners, of course, needed something to hold them upright, so all or little corn niblets and meat-shaped foodstuffs didn’t end up on our laps or floor.

Thus was born the TV tray. These are tiny little personal tables built for one. No need to share “your” space with any of those pesky loved ones.

Our house is having none of that.

Home sweet home

Like many true Victorians (a starchy era to be true), this old house is like an elderly grande dame. She has her standards of etiquette and insists they be adhered to.

There is no “eat in” in the kitchen of our home by design. This house came equipped with 3,000 sprawling square feet of space and a kitchen no bigger than a bread box.

As such, the phrase “eat in” is not generally applied to our kitchen unless one is hunched over the stove eating directly out of a pan.


In the “old days,” kitchens were designed for servants and hard-working housewives to toil from dawn to dusk without sullying the “finer” areas of a home. Think of them like mud rooms with stoves.

It’s ironic to imagine that back when cooking was truly “from scratch,” whole chickens were plucked, butter churned, and bread culled from a speck of yeast all in a kitchen that measures maybe 200 square feet.

The living room, in contrast, is spacious, but seems to be located about a quarter-mile or so (as the crow flies) from the kitchen. It’s quite a trek with a full plate, never mind if you forget the salt and have to head back.

Fine dining

As a result of our home’s peculiarly old-fashioned geography, we found ourselves eating in the large, spacious room directly adjacent to the kitchen that was cleverly designed for, get this, people to sit down and eat.

I believe it’s called a “dining room.” What a novel concept!

Our children, being thoroughly modern children, do lobby from time to time to eat in the living room. On, say, pizza night that can be fun.

For the most part, however, Mr. Wonderful and I have officially turned old and set in our ways because we can’t really see the allure in eating on the couch.

Why sit and balance dinner plates on your lap while eyeballing that cold glass of milk that is JUST out of reach on the coffee table, when you can have it all within arm’s reach right there on a nice sturdy surface in front of you?

Why cry over that spilled milk when the aforementioned nice, sturdy table prevents so much spillage in the first place?

Finally, why watch television when you can listen to a playground tale and two “knock-knock” jokes instead? Nothing on cable can match a good knock-knock from my ten year old, yet.

Usually I roll my eyes at advertising campaigns as just another way to part me from my money — something I am definitely not fond of.

That said, I hope Let’s Fix Dinner catches on.

Be it a carved mahogany heirloom, a card table or even one shared TV tray, there is something to be said for gathering round the dinner table to touch base with your loved ones and talk about the day.


I know that we were all taught by our loving mothers not to talk with our mouths full, but I don’t think they meant for us to take it quite that far.

Dinnertime conversation is fruitful and healthy, even.

Remember, you can talk between bites if it will make your mama happier.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt loves to eat anytime and anywhere. She welcomes comments (and recipes!) c/o lifeoutloud@comcast.net; http://kymberlys.blogspot.com; or P.O. Box 38, Salem, Ohio 44460.)


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Kymberly Foster Seabolt lives in rural Appalachia with the always popular Mr. Wonderful, two small dogs, one large cat, two wandering goats, and a growing extended family.



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