I grew up in Connecticut in a small city named Bristol (home of the ESPN sports network). I have six brothers (one is my twin) and four sisters. My brother Carl and I were the youngest of eleven children. There were so many of us that we spanned two generations. My parents were loving, modest, working-class people who had their plates full running a household often bursting at the seams with activity. Overseeing the lives of their children required thoughtful planning, a sense of humor, and a whole lot of patience.

My parents used the family meal ritual as one strategy to keep us all connected with one another. They didn’t call it a strategy or say we had a shared-meal plan (per se), but every evening at five o’clock everyone would be present at the dinner table. After- school and personal activities were scheduled around our daily meals. My childhood was happy and filled with a lot of love and laughter. I believe that the meal ritual I enjoyed growing up was a major factor.


Shared meals mattered a lot back then.

As I grew older, married, and raised my daughter and son, I saw how our lives were becoming increasingly more complex as the years passed. Especially when my kids were in high school, it was challenging to fit in one meal a day somewhere in our schedule. But since we needed to stay connected somehow, we muddled through flexing our schedules to get together, and found time for a meal together most of the time, although we didn’t use a plan.

Shared meals still mattered, in fact, they mattered even more than when I was a kid.

After my mother passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in 2000, I felt a little lost. I starting getting together with people with whom I had lost connection, and through these mealtime conversations rediscovered my passion for the shared-meal ritual. During this time, in my early forties, I went back to college and studied human development, researching about the many powerful ways a shared-meal ritual can help our lives to feel more joyful and balanced.

After learning so much about why shared meals matter in our complex and wired society, I decided to write a book and started The Shared-Meal Revolution. This revolution is a social movement to help people gain awareness about the many health, social, psychological, and other benefits that can be experienced through the simple act of a daily shared meal ritual.

Shared meals matter to everyone for many reasons. Here are just a few:

• Children benefit from shared meals because they need routines to feel stable and secure. They also need positive role modeling to make healthy food choices.

• Shared meals benefit parents because it helps create unity in the home, build relationships with each another, and helps parents feel a sense of contentment that they are taking care of their families.

• A daily shared meal benefits couples because they need time together after long days apart to nurture their relationship, and sharing a meal at the end (or the beginning) of the day provides that time and space.

• Single people of any age, especially those living alone, need opportunities with other people to keep from being isolated. Getting together with someone else at least one time a day over a meal is a way to keep from being cut off from the world.

I used to think that seeking more “joy” was kind of corny. But really, what’s so corny about finding joy? Isn’t that what life is about? I also wondered what really makes a “balanced” life. Since seeing how shared meals give me that daily dose of joyful sweetness, and breathing a sigh of relief every day around a table eating delicious food and feeling the warmth of people I love around me, I no longer wonder.

Life really shouldn’t be all work and no play. We have to have balance or we might as well be robots. Sharing a meal every day is one of the best things you can do to improve your life. In many households today, there is fierce competition – overcrowded work and activity schedules, distracting technology, and an emphasis on efficiency over quality time – keeping us from sharing a daily meal with others. Life is full of many wonderful adventures. But you might say that while we’re having so much fun, mealtimes are getting nudged off the table. We need something to help us keep mealtimes happening. Having a plan makes a lot of sense.

Social media is a wonderful innovation, and I enjoy using it very much. But we can’t rely on social media to handle the important details of nurturing relationships. We also need to practice speaking with other people every day to keep the art of conversation alive (not a small matter for the youngest and growing generations who have grown up in the digital world).

So as you can see, in our complicated and beautiful world, it’s now that shared meals matter most.

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Posted on 1/27/2014

Written by Carol Archambeault

Read more about the benefits and best practices of a shared-meal ritual, and how you can create your own shared-meal plan in Carol’s new book, The Shared-Meal Revolution: How to Reclaim Balance and Connection in a Fragmented World through Sharing Meals with Family and Friends. Read Carol’s blog Shared Meals Matter, and join The Shared Meal Revolution by visiting www.shared-meals.com.