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Savoring Family Dinner Time

This summer, the Mission Society is turning up the heat and embarking on a tasty exploration with our Mission Nutrition series, where we’ll explore the meaningful role food plays in our lives and discover the delightful possibilities that await us in the kitchen. In this piece, we had the chance to connect with children’s book author, Angela Shanté, who emphasizes the importance of slowing down and savoring family dinner time with our loved ones.

Growing up in a bustling city like New York, Sunday dinner was more than just a meal in our home. It was a cherished tradition that allowed my family to slow down, reconnect, and create memories together. For generations, communing over food has become a timeless tradition across many cultures. It originated as a day of rest and rejuvenation, offering families a chance to come together around the table and strengthen their bonds.

However, Sunday dinner goes beyond sharing a meal; It carries profound significance deeply rooted in the heritage of African American culture, tracing back to the historical context of enslaved African Americans in the United States. During this time, Sundays were often the only day off for enslaved individuals, providing an opportunity for family gatherings and nourishing meals. These gatherings became a source of strength, resilience, and cultural preservation. Over time, Sunday dinner became an integral part of African American culture, fostering strong familial bonds and offering comfort in the face of adversity.

In today’s fast-paced and technologically-driven world, finding moments where we can slow down and prioritize quality time with loved ones can be challenging. However, reintroducing the tradition of Sunday Dinner could help us reestablish those meaningful connections.

To bring back the tradition of Sunday dinner in your home, start by setting aside dedicated time for family gatherings, regardless of the day of the week. Create an atmosphere of togetherness by involving family members in meal planning, preparation, and setting of the table. In our household, everyone had a role, with younger family members often taking charge of setup and cleanup, while older siblings would contribute to food preparation. Establish this designated time as a technology-free zone, allowing everyone time to fully engage and escape the constant rush, multitasking, and digital distractions of our daily lives.

The impact of these shared moments extends far beyond the immediate gathering. Regular family meals provide a space where open communication thrives, stories are shared, and cultural traditions and values are passed down through generations. Sunday dinner strengthens family dynamics, nurtures emotional connections, and fosters a sense of belonging. This time spent around the table lays the foundation for strong and meaningful relationships as family and friends actively listen, show empathy, and seek understanding.

The memories I’ve forged during these cherished meals continue to have a profound impact, shaping and enriching my daily life in many ways. As a child, I may not have fully realized it, but now as an adult, I draw inspiration from these moments when I write. The people, stories, and love experienced over the dinner table are woven into everything I create.

By reviving the spirit of Sunday Dinner into every meal, you can make this shared time a meaningful experience for all involved, whether it be with family, chosen family, friends, or even strangers who may eventually become cherished members of our lives. Sunday Dinner serves as a gentle but powerful reminder of the importance of slowing down and cherishing the moments we have with our loved ones. Regardless of our busy schedules, there's always room to savor the joys of Sunday dinner and make time for the connections that matter most.

Angela Shanté is the award-winning author of Sunday Dinner, a children’s picture book that emphasizes the importance of slowing down, cherishing family, and spending time together over a meal. The teacher-turned-author captivates readers with her unique storytelling, quirky narrative style, and her passion for African American culture. Drawing from nearly two decades of experience in the field of education and advocacy, Angela utilizes her voice and platform to support, highlight, and make space for marginalized creatives within the arts and education.

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