In the hyper-connected world in which we live in today, we seem to share everything and anything but our dinner table. With schedules hectic as ever, many families are lucky if they see each other in passing. Take out food has made it all too easy to eat on the run. And as our population ages, many of our older citizens find themselves sad and alone at mealtime.

Having just returned from an exquisite dinner party in Paris where I live in the summer, the meal was much more than what was just on the menu. The laughter, sharing stories, and the commiserating might as well have been the appetizer, main course and dessert. I left feeling not only pleasantly full in the stomach but full in the soul. This little soirée reminded me that eating with others is critical for mental, physical and spiritual health for three important reasons.

Eating with others broadens your palate and your mind!

 

By sharing your table with others, you are more apt to try new foods and learn something about other people.. When dining alone, our food choices can become monotonous and with no one to converse with, our health can suffer.

“Sharing a dining experience with others is like a well-executed wine & food pairing: it elevates the experience to more than just the sum of its parts and turns what could be a short conversation or a quick meal into a deeper and richer dialogue and exchange,” so says Forest Collins, owner of 52 Martinis in Paris.

As one of the grand doyennes of the city, Collins knows that eating together is much more than what’s on the plate. She goes on to say, “We celebrate so many of life’s successes and milestones with meals: weddings, promotions, graduations.  But, it’s worthwhile to remember that we can share this fundamental activity with family and friends on a daily basis to so many benefits: it slows us down, it helps us appreciate other people and food better, it affords an opportunity to show those close to you that you care about them.”

Eating together also reinforces mindful eating habits.

 

When you eat consciously, you really savor food. For example, think about a piece of chocolate. Although some people label chocolate as a “cheat” food, when you take the time to let the chocolate really melt on your tongue and feel the sensation, you’ll probably need a whole lot less of it to be satisfied. Chocolate or any other food we think of as an indulgence, goes from being something we might feel guilty about eating, to something pleasurable and enjoyed without the guilt attached. When you eat with others, the conversation around the table naturally slows down our pace of eating which results in less food consumed.

Dining with others establishes a support system.

 

Mealtime is a great way to reconnect with people whose opinions matter to us and to meet new people as well.

Gail Boisclair, owner of Perfectly Paris Apartment Rental Agency is known in Paris for her keen ability to connect people together through her almost weekly get togethers around her table. “Sharing food is an easy way to make people feel comfortable and at ease, especially if not everyone around the table knows each other. I always make an effort to introduce friends to others they may have something in common with. It makes for interesting conversations whether it be for dinner or an informal apero.”

Collins agrees. “It doesn’t have to be complicated to get others around your “table” – try something as simple as a potluck picnic on a park bench with friends. Personally, I love inviting people around for a multi course dinner and asking each guest to bring an unusual cheese for an end-of-meal cheeseboard. It’s not only delicious, but gets everyone involved, makes for a conversation piece and might even teach you something new about yourself,  your friends or at the very least the cheese!”

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art”, so said the 17th century writer, Francoise de la Rochefoucauld. I think what he meant by intelligently is nothing more complicated than recognizing the benefits of eating together. And to that I say, Sante–eat in good health!

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