The Simplest Way to Change the World

Form a family. Of any sort, biological or otherwise. Eat dinner together nightly. Repeat.

In that spirit, here’s a paragraph to ponder from the reading journal of one of my January-term students*:

“Since both my parents had careers in the Air Force, my family was run in a military manner with strict rules, many activities, and time management. We had timers to regulate our homework, play, and exercise. Our family vacations were notoriously un-relaxing, with us often traversing 6 different cities in two weeks or cycling the entire coast of a country. However, one area in which we were a “slow” family is related to dinner. My mom very strictly required that we have a sit-down family meal together at 6:00 P.M. every night, at which we were expected to try every food item on the table, chat about our days. Skipping or arriving late to dinner was unacceptable, as was leaving the table before 7:00 P.M. My brothers and I rotated through chores of setting the table, helping cook the meal, and loading the dishwasher. I thought this was normal until I found that none of my college friends had routine family dinners growing up. Though I resented this forced family interaction time, it became the stabilizing force in my life, a chance to wind down and reconnect with my family. Is this family priority outdated, unrealistic, and a little ridiculous?”

The “stabilizing force in my life”.

Social scientific research on the effects of family dinners is eye-opening. How can something so simple have so many positive correlations? From “The Importance of Eating Together” in the Atlantic:

“. . . children who do eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents less often, according to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.”

Consider the flip side, the negative consequences of families who do not eat together with any regularity:

“There are two big reasons for. . . negative effects associated with not eating meals together: the first is simply that when we eat out—especially at the inexpensive fast food and take-out places that most children go to when not eating with their family—we tend not to eat very healthy things. As Michael Pollan wrote in his most recent book, Cooked, meals eaten outside of the home are almost uniformly less healthy than homemade foods, generally having higher fat, salt, and caloric content.

The other reason is that eating alone can be alienating. The dinner table can act as a unifier, a place of community. Sharing a meal is an excuse to catch up and talk, one of the few times where people are happy to put aside their work and take time out of their day.”

Why don’t we eat dinner together more? Have we convinced ourselves we lack the time or are we unaware of the positive effects?

The more we follow the lead of my student’s mother, the better the world and we will be.

*shared by permission

My New Thang—Avocados

Early in my dad’s business career he sold appliances for General Electric. Every year we got one new one, including allegedly, the first trash compactor in the country. And for some reason only my mom could probably explain, every last appliance was avocado green. Turns out those early avocado green kitchens did a number on my subconscious because recently I’ve turned into an avocado eating machine, putting them on damn near everything, as if I’m making up for lost time.

So I got a kick out of this, “Your New Avocado: An FAQ“.

Below is a picture of today’s breakfast bowl of oatmeal which lies buried underneath the red and late 1960’s kitchen appliance green fruit goodness. Some mornings I borrow from professional cycling chefs and sub in two fried eggs. And always, I top everything off with a little butter and a lot of Kirkland Saigon Cinnamon (Costco doesn’t pay me for these egregious product placements, but they should).

Today’s philosophical question. At what point does the balance tip towards the add-ins and I can no longer accurately describe my breakfast as a bowl of oatmeal? That’s what philosophers refer to as a “Seinfeld episode worthy” question.


That’s right, even our kitchen bowls are avocado green.