As families enter into the business of back to school time, we tend to get caught up in the act of busy-ness and the economy of our lives can supersede the importance of family tradition.
Specifically I am speaking about the tradition of family meal times and would like to point out that it is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. As you walk up and down the aisles of a grocery store you can see how our culture demands quick and easy fixes for filling hungry bellies.
Pre-packaged lunches that fit easily into a lunch bag, microwavable ready made soups and pastas seem to be the answer to our dilemma of how we feed our kids with the least amount of effort.
In Squamish, a large majority of parents commute to the city or whistler to work and sometimes the only meal shared is at the dinner hour. Add sports and other after school activities through out the week and you can see the opportunity to even share a family meal is few and far between.
So why is it so important to eat together as a family? Kids are getting fed so what is the big deal?
Well, according to psychologist Gordon Neufeld and physician Gabor Maté who have written books on healthy attachment, the rituals and traditions of family meal times are essential for proper emotional bonding to occur.
These docs have worked extensively in Vancouver's downtown eastside and attribute much of the drug abuse issues, street kids, and so on with peers replacing parents in the lives of children. They see that the amount of time our kids spend with their peers versus time spent being influenced by parents has changed dramatically since the World War II era.
We used to get our sense of identity and right and wrong from our traditional family values passed down to us from our elders. Somewhere along the way though, as economy became our focus, our kids spent more time away from parents and peers replaced our elders as the people we attached to and received our core values from.
According to the book "Hold on to Your Kids," Neufeld and Maté assert that this has undermined our family cohesion and sabotaged healthy development. The other problems that have arisen due to peers as a main influence is a rise in bullying, aggression, lack of respect for elders and child and teen suicide.
Comparing our society to those that lack the same problems such as Provence, France we can see how they have held true to long time family traditions; mainly eating together.
Unlike North America, where it is not uncommon for breakfast to be a hurried meal, lunch eaten at school out of a bag, and dinner on the way to soccer practice, villages in Provence hold an unspoken sacredness to the family gathering of meal times.
School children go home at lunch and it is not uncommon to find many generations preparing the meal and eating together. It is mostly around mealtime that cultural values and identity are instilled and where healthy bonding happens.
Kid favourite thermos chicken chowder
1 tbsp canola or grapeseed oil
1 onion, chopped fine
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 1/2 cups milk
1 c frozen hash browns or cubed new potatoes
1 c corn, frozen
3/4 cup chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Place the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Allow the oil to heat slightly.
Add the onion and cook stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until tender.
Cover the cooked onions with the flour and poultry seasoning. Continue to cook 1 minute longer. Pour in the milk.
Stir constantly bring the mixture to a boil. Allow to cook 2 minutes longer, still stirring, until mixture begins to thicken.
Place the potatoes and corn into the mixture. Bring back to a slightly gentle boil.
Once boiling, reduce heat to low and cover the pan.
Cook 12 minutes or until the potatoes begin to tender. Stir in the chicken carefully.
Cook an additional 15 minutes or until the chicken is heated through.
Serves 4 This makes a great thermos lunch for children. Just remind them not to open the lid until it's time to eat. Add a biscuit with butter and honey or jelly to add sweetness to this savory dish. Don't forget a little note thanking your child for helping to make this delicious soup.