Healing Effects of a Family Meal

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Sitting around a table to break bread and share stories with loved ones can have such a nourishing effect on the soul.  Family dinners are one of my most treasured memories.  It is a great time to enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed, blissful environment while savoring lovingly prepared delicacies.

We rented a house on the Aegean, in Bodrum, last summer where we were living as an extended family of 6-9 people, including my mother-in-law along with visiting cousins, niece and nephews.

I don’t know if this is due to our family trait of simply loving good food or a common part of our culture, some of the best times were the ones we shared during meals, our dinner tables always full of chaotic joy.  We enjoyed the family time so much that we decided it bore repeating – so we are back again this summer.  My husband, sons, and I arrived yesterday with my mother-in-law; we are expecting many more to join us in the coming weeks.  Since it was our first night in the house, dinner was a quiet, simple fare.

Unfortunately, at times, my mother-in-law suffers from some memory loss; excitement and anxiety due to a change of place seems to heighten her symptoms.  While we had a perfectly wonderful trip from Istanbul, arriving in Bodrum after an hour long flight and having a great meal at a restaurant on our way home, as the day wore on, my mother-in-law’s demeanor began to change.  After a while, she started to get disoriented and talk about going back home.   This is all becoming very normal behavior we are learning to deal with as her condition advances.   We were surprised none-the-less, since she talked about little else besides spending the summer in Bodrum, for the past 10 months.

But after we sat down to dinner, something magical happened that reinforced my belief in the healing power of a family meal…  My mother-in-law started to remember… the other house we were in last summer and point out the differences between the two places.  She started talking about her room, the shopping trips and the walks we used to go on and asking me if we could do it again, this year.

I guess the term ‘comfort food’ does have a literal meaning…  the comforting effects of sharing a meal with her family must have rung the right cord with someone who could so easily slip away.  I hope we can continue to improve her health by eating together, sharing stories and laughter and creating new memories for all of us to cherish for the cold and lonely winter days.