The culture of home-cooked meals and dinning at home has been eroding in many parts of the world. Sadly, to many families, the term “happy meals” is all about dinning at McDonalds.
As a child grown up in a farming family at the upper part of Burma, meals I know were all home-cooked. All foods we cooked were home-grown; all came from our farm or shared by neighbors’ farms. Apart from some snacks, my family had dined outside not more than once or twice as year, for the whole of my childhood life. The main reasons we did not dine outside were foods at restaurants were relatively expensive, and they are not considered as hygienic. I remember, even when we took days-long trips, we prepared foods which could last during the trips.
Our daily breakfast, which came in very early morning around 6:00 am before my father was off to the farm, was very simple – mostly freshly cooked white rice mixed with boiled beans; we seasoned it with peanut oil and salt, and served with some sour pickles. If we could get it with a vada or dried fishes, that meant luxury for us. On weekends, we brought our breakfast to the farm and ate together with our dad, other neighbor farmers, and farm workers. It was like a community breakfast. I remember we prepared it in a large bowl; everyone sat down on the ground in a circle around the bowl and shared it together. We, kids, also had a chance to listen to the conversations of local farmers at the breakfast circle- topics varied from about crops, farming techniques to community issues and political issues as well. My father encouraged us to give our opinions as well. When we got a little bit older, my father and other local farmers even asked us our suggestions how to improve things as they regarded us more educated than they were. And, we also helped out our parents’ farming chores in the remaining morning times, and rested and did our homework inside the farm house when the heat outside got stronger. Lunches back in home were usually more bigger meals with well-cooked meat and vegetable curries, and soup served with rice, and dinners were with freshly cooked hot curries with all vegetables freshly hand-picked from the farm. Yes, we ate everyday and every meal with the family. It is more than a meal. It provides a crucial family bonding time so that the older generation could hand down traditions to the younger generation, and helped them out to have the tools necessary for life. I believe these all amazing experiences made us balanced, healthy, and well-grounded.
A U.S. practicing physician, Dr Mark Hyman, wrote an article in the Huffington Post about how dining at home can contribute to your good health and the well-being of your children.
“Research shows that children who have regular meals with their parents do better in every way, from better grades, to healthier relationships, to staying out of trouble. They are 42 percent less likely to drink, 50 percent less likely to smoke and 66 percent less like to smoke marijuana. Regular family dinners protect girls from bulimia, anorexia, and diet pills. Family dinners also reduce the incidence of childhood obesity. In a study on household routines and obesity in U.S. preschool-aged children, it was shown that kids as young as four have a lower risk of obesity if they eat regular family dinners, have enough sleep, and don’t watch TV on weekdays.”
Thanks to my family traditions well rooted in me, breakfast is still my favorite meal; I am a big believer in that keeping the tradition of eating real, whole foods at home together is the best practice to our good health, to strengthen our family ties, and to resist the influence of industrial food culture wiping out local farms and small local businesses, in addition to giving people poisonous foods by using harmful non-foods substances and manipulating them with misleading various ads.
Now, I’m a recently married wife resettled in a different country. Luckily, my husband also loves cooking and values a home-cooked meal more than dinning at popular dine-outs in town. With the recipes we brought from home, our delicious traditional Burmese dishes give us a sense of home and comfort at the place away from home, and sometimes, we tried out different indigenous cuisines at our little kitchen. Our meals are not fancy, but simple and comfort dishes easy to make. As a married couple, not only eating wholesome home-cooked matters to our good heath, but also the together part, we can get while making foods, matters to strengthen our marriage tie. Those little things – like little bonding time in the kitchen, little kisses and hugs you receive and give your spouse while helping out each other in making foods, exchanging thoughts on recipes (sometimes, messing up with the recipes), and well, pleasure of sharing delicious dishes with the one we love, energize us carrying ourselves from being happily married, to building happy family life, and to bearing happy children in the future.