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Amanda Lamb: The table

Posted November 24, 2013

One of the first things my mother told me about marriage was this: "Don't start traditions you don't intend to keep."

Years later, I realized what she really meant was don't raise your spouse's expectations of what you are capable of or willing to do on a daily basis. For me, this meant one obvious thing: Don't cook.

Not only do I not like to cook, but I am pretty awful in the kitchen. My ability to burn almost everything but water is legendary in my family. I make up for this shortfall in other ways by being a meticulous organizer and planner that keeps my family's life and house running smoothly all week long in the midst of our very busy lives.

What do we eat, you may ask? There's plenty of lovely prepared food at the grocery store made by people much more skilled than myself, plus there's a never-ending supply of takeout dinners in our area. In desperate times, I have been known to break down and rustle up the occasional batch of spaghetti or chicken nuggets, which I usually burn, of course. Between work and all my daughters' after school activities, there are few opportunities for family meals. I do feel guilty, not about the food, but about not having the time together.

We did have family meals when I was growing up where my mom would begrudgingly whip up a little Hamburger Helper or Shake n' Bake chicken after a long day at the office, and despite the less than gourmet cuisine ( I got the bad cooking gene from my mom), there was something very comforting about sharing a meal with my family at the end of the day.

I've come to realize it is not really about the food, but about coming together as a family, talking with your children, hearing about their day. I am thankful when the rare weeknight creates an opportunity for us to eat together whether it's Chinese takeout or frozen pizza. Amongst the plastic containers and paper bags, there is always lively conversation. During the weekends, I make a concerted effort to have a real family meal where the table is set properly and we sit and eat at the same time, not getting up until everyone is finished.

But the "table" can be in your kitchen or at a restaurant. What matters is being together. Tonight it was a chicken place near my daughter's volleyball practice. We chatted, we laughed, and shared a basket of fries. And while Norman Rockwell might not have approved, I'm pretty sure my mother would have.

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.

7 Comments

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  • 123skipjack Nov 26, 2013

    thanks for the corny, made up, embelished article. you are so phony

  • hihuwatlu Nov 25, 2013

    Your mother was a very smart woman! I wish I could love and enjoy cooking but it's just not my thing. I get by but if you don't love something you're never going to be that great at it.

    You're right it doesn't so much matter what's on the table as who is around it! Enjoy your girls. It won't be long until they're grown. I can still count on my daughter though to meet me for lunch whenever I invite her and we still have some of our best talks while sharing a meal.

  • moo Nov 25, 2013

    I think it's great that you still gather your family around a table, no matter what is on that table! Some of the best conversation and connections happen around the dinner table. If you're inclined, I think a crock pot might just become your best friend. It is super easy and **almost** impossible to burn anything; it'd be a convenient way to cook at home, even for the busiest of people. WRAL's Smart Shopper has a ton of great crockpot recipes you could try.

  • grammajm Nov 25, 2013

    If you follow directions from a cookbook or directions on the back of the package, you should have no problem overcooking or burning. Also, alot of the frozen foods and take out fast foods have so much salt that should be avoided. Glad to hear your family gathers to eat together. So important!

  • Obamacare for one and all Nov 25, 2013

    Oh Mandy, if only you knew the things that go on in those restaurant kitchens, you'd learn how to cook your own meals in no time.

  • lec02572 Nov 25, 2013

    I am a father of three grown children and have always done 90% of the cooking in our home. Even with our children grown I will always hope that I can do the cooking for the family on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know that my children have their own lives now with their children, but I think it is extremely important that families spend time together. This year however I am only cooking 50% of the Thanksgiving dinner and we are taking it to my daughter new home. Maybe, the tradition is carrying over to my daughter to continue. I hope so, I enjoy it more than anything.

  • gastonboater Nov 25, 2013

    On Thanksgiving Day, I go to my volunteer job at the USO at RDU, my wife goes to church with one of her brothers. Our son, and daughter-in-law are at her parents, while our daughter and son-in law are at his families house. In the evening we fix a meal and take to her parents, because her mother is home bound. My parents are both passed and greatly missed, but we gather on Saturday evening at our house for our Thanksgiving. And we have so many thing to be thankful for!