Growing up I remember it was almost always required we have dinner at the dinner table. I would beg to please eat my dinner in front of the television and for the most part my dad would always refuse.
When I got into High School he was not as stringent as to where I ate my dinner. Why was it so important to him that my brother and I sit at the dinner table?
I remember at the age of 7, my dad standing over the dinner table holding my hand to show me the proper way to hold a fork and knife. It wasn’t until I got older I realized that’s how he did with my brother as well.
Later on as we got older and understood the proper way to hold our knife and forks, and understood the idiosyncrasies of eating spaghetti and drinking soups at the dinner table and how to properly eat our breads, things shifted from the technical to the social.
Then he no longer had to glance at our hands and focus on how we chewed our food. It became about conversation.
As a kid I hated dinner time for that very reason: all that talking. My dad would ask questions about school.
I would tell him about different scenarios and incidents. But it almost always shifted to be getting a lecture. My dad had this way of baiting us into telling him things, and then he would yell at us for our decisions and thoughts.
I laugh about it now, but as a kid my brother and I hated it. It wasn’t just at home either. About once a month he would take us to a different type of restaurant. Though he loved Haitian food, he would be sure to take us to different places.
His main thing was he did not want us to get phased when people talked about certain things. It worked. I am rarely impressed.
I never understood it at the time, but I later realized those dinner conversations was his way of getting at us.
It was his way of understanding where we stood on various topics. He could see what direction our young, fragile and oh so absorbent minds were heading early, and nip anything in the bud if he needed to, All while ensuring that we had the technical etiquette of knowing how to conduct ourselves properly at the dinner table.
These dinner moment’s allowed him to mold us into the people he wanted us to be. Though it was painful at times, I am very grateful now. I cringe when I sit at a restaurant and see the ill ways in which people conduct themselves.
It even hurts my heart to see two people sitting across a dinner table with nothing to talk about. My dad was such a pain about the way he would force things out of us, he forced you to think. He forced you to be quick, analytical and smart, because anything else could get you a lecture that lasted from dinner until lunch time the next day.
Thus I credit dinner time and the dinner table for my social skills and being able to talk about pretty much anything.
Nadege Fleurimond is the owner & business manager of Fleurimond Catering, Inc., www.fgcatering.com, an off-premise catering firm serving the NY/NJ/CT/MA areas