Eat to Live

Posted by Anthony E. Steele II on 8/2/2023

Eat to Live

Perhaps it is the angle of the sun or a slight change in the weather that tickles the innate sense that it is time to return to school. We look forward to our familiar routines and the comfort they provide, and we enthusiastically anticipate our annual traditions. At BVT, every school year kicks off with the Freshmen Cookout. It is hard to imagine not greeting our new students and their families without breaking bread. Welcome to our home where we — EAT TO LIVE!

When we think of nourishment and satisfying our cravings, there are many things that we hunger for, but food is not the only substance. 

Technological advancements, particularly within social media, have exponentially increased our insatiable hunger to connect with the world in which we live. Just imagine for a moment how much you have learned about new cultures, traditions, music, lexicon, trends and the like from the internet and social media. Clearly, technology has afforded us the ability to become world citizens and broadened our horizons, and that is a good thing. But, as I always say, we must take all things in moderation. 

We are all keenly aware of the downsides of overindulgence in social media, and like all forms of addiction, we are also reluctant to acknowledge it. We are growing ever dependent on our tech-infused lifestyles, and the forecast is for more to come. The supreme irony is that the very technology that provides us with so much connectivity to one another, both near and far, is also extremely isolating. Scrolling your device’s screen is a solo sport — it’s lonely, and we’ve also witnessed how detrimental it can be to one’s social-emotional well-being, particularly youngsters. As I have previously written, good, healthy living must balance increasing screen time with high-quality, in-person activities. I can’t think of a better antidote to screen time than consciously embracing our love of food. Allow me to explain.

We require food for nourishment of our bodies, but we overlook that the manner in which we eat our food also serves as nourishment for the soul. When we break bread together, it involves more than ingestion and digestion, or at least it should. At mealtimes we talk, connect, share, take an interest in others at the table, and ultimately nourish each other’s emotional health and well-being in the process. A keen observer will notice this not only at the family dinner table, but also between complete strangers who find themselves striking up a conversation while munching peanuts in adjacent airplane seats. We innately bond over mealtime, and perhaps that is why it is sacred around the globe and throughout human history.

I absolutely love to cook and adventurously explore eating and preparing food, but rarely alone. No doubt about it — I am a “foodie,” but I find myself far more drawn to cooking rather than dining out. My love for the culinary arts primarily extends from interpersonal interactions with company more than anything else. I can’t think of a better way to show gratitude, honor family and friendship, and enjoy the company of others than preparing and enjoying a meal for them, or better yet, with them. I prefer to engage my guests — we share culinary techniques, enjoy beverages and music along the way, and eventually critique our work to generate ideas for the next time. In my opinion, preparing and eating dinner with guests is the binary opposite, and thus the best remedy, to the detrimental aspects of the cyber world. Whether cooking or dining out, it is a ripe opportunity to enjoy the company of others.

The importance of eating together seems like common sense to me, but to be sure, I went searching for empirical data to confirm my assumptions. compiled an impressive collection of data on the subject from Gallup polls and fourteen additional sources titled, “Family Dinner Statistics and Trends in 2023.” Here are a few of the highlights and important take-aways: 

• Approximately 67% of American households cook dinner at home 5 to 7 times a week. This overall statistic surged during the pandemic for obvious reasons, but is trending back down as families return to busy routines that compete with family dinner time.

• Teens who have frequent family dinners are more likely to have higher-quality relationships with their parents.

• Kids who eat family dinners regularly are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables. I would add that they are far more likely to know how to cook a healthy meal. Likewise, the data confirms that adults who had regular family dinners as kids are more likely to have healthier diets as adults.                                         

• About 34% of families involve children in the planning or preparation of family dinners.

• Families who eat dinner together are two times more likely to eat their meals on time.

• Cooking at home leads to better food choices, which can result in weight loss and reduced risk for type 2 diabetes.

• Children who participate in regular family meals are at lower risk of developing an eating disorder and reduce their risk of childhood obesity by 12%.

• Family dinners have a more positive impact on a child’s vocabulary than reading aloud to them.

• Kids who have frequent family dinners are 45% less likely to have tried alcohol.

• Family dinners help children reduce stress and lower feelings of anxiety.

Some of those statistical findings went well beyond my intuitive sense of the importance of family mealtime, but I am not surprised by them. As I reflect, I remember not only the family recipes, but the childhood memories of learning to make them. My grandmother’s Great Depression recipes, like corn chowder and tomato soup, were not only delicious, but also contained lessons in frugality. I still make Salisbury steaks with mashed potatoes to pay tribute to Swanson TV Dinners. It was a childhood treat to have, on rare occasions, a Swanson TV Dinner in the living room while watching my favorite shows. My mother made the best meatloaf, and my pops made the best lasagna and veal marsala. Today I can appreciate why we sat at the dinner table every night, and I am grateful that my family taught me how to cook.

Are you getting hungry? If so, reflect on your family’s food traditions and cook up some of your favorite recipes that you and your kids can enjoy together. You are sure to cherish the meaningful connections you’ll make.

Food is a common language that spans all cultures and geographies. Our food is our culture, our values, our traditions, and our memories. It serves as our platform for social connection, teaching, learning, and healthy lifestyles. As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” Boy, is that a mouthful. We really do — Eat to Live!