Everyone has great memories surrounding food.
Christmas dinner, Thanksgiving dinner, Easter dinner, Sunday dinner at grandma’s house, Friday night pizza with family and friends, taco Tuesday, are just some of the times we celebrate around food.
Why do we take people out to dinner? Why do we love actual sit-down meals? Why do we have great memories around meals?
What changes when we sit down to eat a meal with others?
We have two divisions of our autonomic (or automatic) nervous system. That’s the part you don’t really think about. It controls things like your heart rate, digestion of food, and pupil dilation.
The Sympathetic system is in charge of our “fight or flight” reactions. When your sympathetic nervous system is active, your body is in a high stress mode. Blood is shunted away from your digestive system and into your muscles so you can run or climb or whatever you need to do to survive a dangerous or stressful situation.
The Parasympathetic system is in charge of “breed and feed” or “rest and digest”. When your parasympathetic nervous system is active, your body relaxes. It focuses on digestion and slows your heart rate.
So scientifically, when you sit down to eat a meal with friends and family, your body relaxes. Your stress levels go down, and you can enjoy your meal and your company.
Meals together bond people and create good times. People tend to relax and talk to one another.
Even the Bible recommends feasts.
“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines.”
Isaiah 25:6 NIV
“So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.”
2 Kings 6:23 NIV
“When Abner, who had twenty men with him, came to David at Hebron, David prepared a feast for him and his men.”
2 Samuel 3:20 NIV
I have attended large meals in Germany, Mexico, and Haiti. It’s the same across the world. Meals are meant for community building. They should be part of your family life. The food doesn’t matter. What matters is the time spent together.
I still remember going to my great aunt’s house as a young girl. It was a holiday gathering place. Food was spread out everywhere. Everyone ate and talked and played games and laughed. I don’t remember the food (other than her coconut pie), but the atmosphere lives on in my mind.
Remember to slow down and create these special times for your family.