One of the fondest memories I have as a child was walking into GiGi’s house on a Sunday to the aroma of ‘Jiggs’ Dinner.’ Also known as “boiled,” or “Sunday dinner.” A lot of food, lovingly made, for a lot of people. A traditional Newfoundland feast of salt beef, turnip, cabbage, potato, carrot, figgy duff, and more often than not — dumplings. Hand-formed, homemade pockets of deliciousness are a culinary flagship in many cultures. And it’s no small wonder why. They’re delicious! I love that something so simple, and how it is prepared, and savoured in the company of others maps who we are and where we come from. Irreplaceable, imprinted food memories like Nan’s ‘Jiggs’ Dinner’ is all the reminder I need that mealtime is about so much more than food — it’s about connection. So, what is it about eating together that brings us closer? And is there a recipe for mealtime connection? The GetJoyfull girls are on a mission to find out!
Many hours watching Nan dance around the kitchen, with a skip in her step — not a recipe in sight. She made it all look, well, effortless. It wasn’t until I was solo in my own kitchen that I realized just how much effort, skill and time went into preparing such treasured spreads. With this nostalgic feeling in my heart I’m motivated to teach my Cela the same time-honoured traditions. GiGi is now 82-years-old, but thanks to technology we video chat, and cook together often. Cela quickly earned the nickname “Skyper Diaper” after she was born, lol. I should definitely pay a subscription for GiGi’s OCS (online culinary support), but she insists my “Granddaughter card” gets me out of that one, lol.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve realize that exploring family traditions is, for me, the key ingredient to enhanced mealtime connection. It’s probably because of my sappy heart, but so-be-it. Which again brings me back to dumplings. Shortly after first meeting my husband Alex he first introduced me to the another “dumpling” — the pierogi. He emerged from the kitchen with a plate (bigger than my head) piled high with Ukrainian heritage (and bacon). He was so proud, and I was happily overwhelmed with new food joy. Now, a few years later, learning how to make these soft pillows of amazingness is on the GetJoyfull Food Trip wish-list. Perhaps another GetJoyfull adventure awaits down-the-road. Calling all Baba’s — we’ll be needing you!
More recently, my Cela has fallen in love with yet another “dumpling” — the ravioli. Inspired by our friends, the Stabile’s, and the May 2018 ‘Bon Appetit‘ magazine spread, “Summer Like an Italian (Even If You’re Not One)” they’ve been a weekly staple on the GetJoyfull table. I guess this whole exploring family traditions gig has a few yummy perks! Not to mention universal truths. Newfoundland Jiggs’ dinner, Ukrainian feasts, and Italian Sunday suppers all have one thing in common — family is the centerpiece. On this latest GetJoyfull journey we’ve tapped into five themes that have really helped our family make the most of time spent around the table. What’s your family’s recipe for mealtime connection? We’d love for you to share your stories, too!
The GetJoyfull Recipe for Mealtime Connection
Eat together It may seem like a simple concept but it’s perhaps one of the most important. Family life is chaotic on the most average of days. Somehow we cram dance class, kinder home reading, art lessons, Sportball, work and school into a 24-hour period. It’s no small wonder it’s hard to find time to gather, and Eat Together. Take the pressure off and embrace what’s realistic aiming for 10 minutes of mealtime connection, everyday. Whether it’s a quick breakfast before everyone heads out the door or even a bedtime snack if it’s the only moment the family can all be together. Pick a time that works for your family and make the most of those ten minutes every day!
Encourage table talk Between the normal dinner time talk of ‘please pass the veggies’ and ‘can you grab another fork for Cela’ studies have shown in the average family meal there is only about 10 minutes of meaningful family talk time in total. Make the most of those ten minutes and encourage your kids to speak up and get involved in the conversation. I think too often we can default to the ‘how was your day’ – try mixing it up. Look online for some great conversation starters, we love some of the resources on www.thefamilydinnerproject.org The other day Cela piped up asking her Dad, “Papa did you have any struggles at work today?” I swear this kid has a 70-year-old soul sometimes –she melts me! It reminded me of the ‘Bad & Good’ game – first introduced to me by Bruce Feiler. By having each family member share one good and one bad thing about their day we cultivate listening skills, build empathy, and truly connect with those around the table.
Explore family traditions My Newfoundland roots, and Alex’s Ukrainian heritage often influence mealtime table talk. So much so Cela told her kindergarten teacher, “I’m half Newfoundlander, half Ukrainian, and half Albertan.” A lesson in fractions can wait—How sweet is that?! Research shows the value of these conversations, and connections. Kids who know more about their family histories, feel more in control, have higher self esteem and more confidence in the strength of their family unit. Need help serving up your family history? Try playing the ‘Do You Know’ game with your kids to get things started. Ask questions like, do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know how your parents met? Do you know what went on the day you were born? Savour the memories, and stories. It’s such a great way to Explore Family Traditions and build meaningful mealtime connection!
Enjoy food with all senses Our senses play a big role in the experience, and pleasure of food. Take sometime to slow down this week and make an extra effort to enjoy food with all senses. Try this simple, and fun exercise to bring more mindful eating at your family table: Choose a food —new or familiar—and ask everyone to describe, and experience it using all five senses. What does it taste like? What does it smell like? What does it sounds like? Etc. You’ll be surprised by the cute, and creative responses, and just how slowing down can help bring yield a new level of food joy! The aroma of food, how it looks and how it feels in your mouth as you eat it can all play a big role in how our families experience the food we eat. We explore this exercise further in our video post on Raising Mindful Eaters.
Endeavour to learn something new Whether it’s a new life skill, a family recipe passed on or even a new technique gained in the kitchen, there’s so many learning opportunities to explore when it comes to cooking and the family meal. You can keep it simple by trying at word game at the family table. Introduce new words, practice pronunciation and come up with other related phrases and words getting everyone involved. The Kitchen is also an incredible place for eager little ones to learn the skills they’ll take with them throughout their lives in preparing meals for their own families later on. Recently Cela and participating in a cooking demonstration at the Edmonton Home and Garden Show and we had a blast. I even let Cela take on the challenge of chopping up some herbs for one of the dishes. Now giving a knife to a six year old especially in front of a large live audience could give any mom a little bit of anxiety, but with the help of a protective glove Cela was able to safely and confidently chop away without worry of any accident. We love products like these guarded knives from Opinel, there are some great tools out there to help build your little ones confidence in the kitchen.
Keep an eye on our feeds later this week as we explore the recipe for mealtime connection though GetJoyfull friends and family of four the Stabiles. Until then don’t forget to Fill up on Family Time!