Dinner’s Done Call 911

 

When women are depressed, they either eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It’s a whole different way of thinking. - -Elaine Boosler  

I (Phil) have pictures on my fridge. Pictures of friends and family and animals and one of my dad falling off a chair laughing. There are magnets too. Imitation cabbages, cauliflowers, bittermelons, and pumpkins—all fitting the decor of the kitchen. The dieter’s favorite Bible verse is there: “He must increase but I must decrease.” Here are a few of my favorite fridge magnets:  

 

           * You’ll eat it. You’ll eat it and like it.

          * Make yourself at home: Clean my kitchen.

          * Coffee isn’t helping, get the jumper cables.

 

          I (Martha) have signs in my kitchen, too. I have a custom made sign that my kids got me for above my stove that says, “Martha’s Burn Center.” Other original signs of mine say, “Dinner’s Done! Call 911!” and “Rolaids—They’re Not Just For Breakfast Anymore.”

We don’t know about you, but we both love the kitchen. It is the heart of the house, the pulse of a family. So much happens in the kitchen. Botulism and putting out fires is only part of it.

          First, the refrigerator is there. Need we say more? Nothing brings a family together quite like a weekly game of “Guess What It Was.” Whether it’s a cucumber that now looks more like a Chia Pet, cheese that now weighs two pounds more than it did when you bought it and is a lot hairier, or the three-week-old pot roast that is now providing a sort of neon lighting for you to see the rest of the food, playing “Guess What It Was” is a fun and educational game that has been bringing families together since the invention of the refrigerator.

Then there’s the stove. How many families have gathered around a skillet engulfed in flames, trying to put out the fire before the neighbors see the smoke and call the fire department again? Nothing bonds a family quite like standing around a roaring grease fire on a cold winter’s day.

There’s the counter space too. When I (Phil) built our house, my wife and I had a few extra feet of kitchen counter added so all five of us could make sandwiches simultaneously. This saves time in the morning and puts me close enough to sneak an extra slice of turkey meat off my wife’s sandwich when she’s not looking.

And finally there’s the table. It may provide comfortable seating, or the chairs may be crammed in so tightly, no one can leave the dinner table early even if they were excused. How many family discussions, announcements, debates, and arguments (“He’s looking at me!” “Am not!” “Are too!”), overeating, and even napping have taken place around the dinner table? It’s the gathering place to beat all gathering places.

          Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, or a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast, being together in the kitchen is about as good as it gets. Few things can silence teenagers more quickly than food. And few things can bring a family together faster than a feast. And we haven’t even mentioned all the fun food fights yet.

I (Martha) have another sign on my fridge: “Home is Where The Heartburn Is.” I was referring to my cooking when I wrote that, but sadly there is a lot of heartburn going on in families today because of stress. We’ve discovered that one of the leading joy-killers is stress. Sadly our homes can be the most stress-filled places on earth, as we dash to appointments, grabbing half-made sandwiches or half-baked muffins with scarcely a nod left over for each other. In the midst of busy times, here are three items to place on your menu, three suggestions to help you de-stress your kitchen and bring back the joy.

Pray together. There are five more items on my (Phil’s) fridge, more precious than any fridge magnets. They are photos of our adopted children, the children we sponsor with the wonderful organization Compassion. Their names are Carlos, Joel, Dariani, Habtamua, and Ndagirijwe.[1] Whenever we remember, we pray for them before meals. Each of these five lives in a country where food is scarce. Praying for those who are less fortunate helps us remember how much we have to be grateful for and is a definite cure for complaints about the leftover tuna salad.

Linger longer. One of the best ways to keep your children or guests at the table longer is to fill their mouths with things they can’t resist.[2] And nothing works better than dessert. Time spent over dessert or hot tea and coffee is invaluable in building relationships and you can make it work for just about any age group. So whenever possible, have dessert. Stop after six helpings.

Ignore the dishwasher. Few inventions (besides the remote control) have pleased us more than the dishwasher, but recently in the Callaway house, something strange began to happen. Our water got weird on us. The glasses came out murky at best, caked in white. We called the experts who told us it was something to do with the water treatment plant and they were working on it. In the meantime we began washing dishes by hand. Our children hardly knew this could be done. They stood around staring to think that such activity was possible. But a strange thing began to happen. We started talking while doing dishes. Actually communicating. Do you remember what that used to be like? I taught my daughter the fine art of snapping towels on her brothers’ hindquarters. I taught her how to run real fast down the hall and lock the bathroom door behind her, before he could retaliate. We hadn’t heard this much laughing and screaming since the time my dad fell out of that chair laughing.

          One of the surest ways to bring back the joy is to center on building healthy relationships. And one of the surest signs of a healthy family is the joy and peace and noise and laughter found in the heart of the house: the kitchen.


1. Thankfully, you don’t have to know how to pronounce someone’s name in order to love them.

2. Things like your Grandma’s fruitcake that are so heavy they can’t get up for awhile.

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