Gather ‘Round: Cooking for Creativity and Family Connectivity

By: Jason Jowers, M.S. MFT.

gather round blog pic of a family cooking together
Pexels [father and son making dinner by August de Richelieu, April 28, 2020, CC0]
If this season has given me anything it’s the gift of time. I had never really given much thought to what I would do if I had more hours in the day or week. Now I know that answer – I would spend it in the kitchen with my family.

Pre-pandemic, there always seemed to be 99 reasons to pick up food or find a way to nourish mine and my family’s bodies with as much efficiency as possible. Now the time I used to spend in drive-thru lines or at the grocery store have been replaced with online grocery delivery, watching cooking videos, and spending more time gathered around the heart of our home, our kitchen.

Thinking back, some of my greatest memories are from shared time spent in the kitchen. I remember doing homework at the kitchen table while my dad started a pot of his famous chili. The smell takes me back as I prepare the very same recipe with my family.

Meal preparation has transformed not only our time in the kitchen but how we relate to food as a family. Cooking is no longer a task to check off the never-ending to-do list, it has become an enjoyable way to help us cope with the coronavirus crisis. Pre-pandemic, we prioritized eating together because we knew The Power Of Family Meal Times.  Now, we are coming together for more than just a quick meal. Through online grocery shopping, looking up recipes, designing our own custom creations and trying new things, we are learning to express ourselves through the food we create and consume as a family

We know the benefits of routinely eating together as a family, but what about those that cook together?

Here are a few ideas and resources from Military Child.org  and from The Family Dinner Project on ways military families can connect through cooking:

  • Start a YouTube or TikTok channel featuring your cooking creations to share with friends and family. This is a great way to capture special moments together, and you can send your videos with your deployed service member!
  • Try making something you’ve never made before – treats for the family pet or using new ingredients for a crazy dessert might lead to the discovery of a new family classic!
  • Take turns photographing your food or start a family food blog
  • Host a Virtual Brunch or Dinner Party to include other families, kids, or a deployed family member
  • Design a themed menu that includes an array of dishes. Let each family member take turns choosing what main dish and sides will be. Maybe prepare a dish that reminds you of the places you have lived. Or pick a country you’ve never been to and try some of the recipes popular to that area. Going “around the world a meal at a time” could lead to new favorites and allow your family to learn about other cultures and foods you may have never experienced!
  • Dust off the old family cookbook and recreate nostalgic recipes. Connect with other military families and neighbors through recipe sharing
  • Consider ways to home-school through cooking to give a fresh new take on some of the topics that are typically covered in the classroom. Parents and kids can partner up to tackle math, science, art, and reading comprehension in the kitchen together. You can even take turns on who is the teacher/chef and who is the student.
  • If you’ve made too much food, consider donating baked goods or food prepared to local shelters or neighbors on base or in your greater community!

Even if you’re culinary creation looks less than Instagram or Pinterest ready and more like it belongs on an episode of Netflix’s popular series “Nailed It,”  – there is fun to be had for the whole family!  As we begin to consider what will come after this season, I hope that my family holds onto our new mealtime routine and that it is part of our “new normal.”

For more on the benefits of family mealtimes and spending time together as a family in the kitchen, read our past MFLN blog post, “Making the Most of Meal Times” and be sure to watch our MFLN webinar, “The Power of Family Mealtimes: Strategies to Promote Health & Wellbeing.” Free continuing education opportunities are still available!

This post was written by members of the MFLN Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Learn more about us at https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/family-development, and connect with us on Facebook, and on Twitter.  Subscribe to our Anchored. podcast series on iTunes and via our podcast page.

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