It is much more than a place to eat; it is where people settle back to talk, laugh, share their lives, and grow their love.”
Not sure I buy the “every family’s world” part, but this does bring up some nice memories for me.
Some of my more pleasant childhood memories are centered on a tacky, linoleum-topped little table that sat in my parent’s farmhouse for decades. I knew every nick and missing piece of this old and probably rather cheap piece of furniture.
Not only did it serve us for meals, since it was the ONLY table, but I also used it as the center of my school work area. Refreshments were easily accessible, the seating was fairly comfortable, and I enjoyed that sense of stability which comes from being around something that has been there a long time.
When my parents splurged and bought a larger wooden table, I was both awed at the shiny new thing and rather depressed because now my table was relegated to the utility area, where it became an informal storage area for supplies, tools, and some things that I could not to this day identify.
Let me be clear … the kitchen table is not the formal dining room table, where lavish meals are served and consumed. The kitchen table is the informal table, where the meals are simple and the conversation can easily flow. You don’t even have to sit up straight on the chairs.
As parents myself, we tried to instill the ritual of daily family meals around various tables as our children grew … with varying levels of success. At this point, the kitchen table became the site of long and sometimes challenging two-person discussions, as my wife and I or one of us with one of the children would wade clumsily through life’s little issues … and a few big ones too.
The kitchen table did not solve the problems, but it gave us a comfortable place to struggle with them.
… but don’t just take my word for it.
The folks at Oldways: Health Through Heritage ought to know about kitchen tables. Their staff spends a significant amount of time sitting around assorted kitchen tables, working on their mission to provide food and nutrition education. Here’s a sample of what they say about The Psychological Significance of the Kitchen Table:
About sharing: “Over the years, the kitchen table has been a place for gathering over meals and sharing conversations. Secrets were shared between sisters, and parents can counsel their children, removed from the activities in the rest of the house. For many children, the perfect opportunity to talk with their mother was while she prepared meals.”
There is also a more public connotation to all this …
Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo. who represents Guam in the United States House of Representatives, recently posted a very long letter to her constituents. In this letter she provided a dizzying array of information about a wide range of topics and issues of interest to them. Interspersed throughout this long discussion, she sprinkled references to talking these issues over at the kitchen table.
“In sitting around our kitchen tables I want our families across our island to reflect on where we’ve come from and where we want to go.”
She was both framing how she wanted to approach her constituents and how they should reflect on and digest all this information … by talking around a kitchen table.
So the kitchen table is clearly a place where sharing and communication occurs. Sounds like a good idea for any family … or an organization.
Where is YOUR kitchen table at work?
All this talk about kitchen tables has made me rather hungry, both for a mid-morning snack and for some honest conversation in the Heartland ….