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Family Meal

    Photo by Kelley Schuyler

    It's National Family Meal Month

    If you’re as obsessed with The Bear, the restaurant dramedy streaming on Hulu, as I am, you’re probably familiar with “family meal.” For the uninitiated, that is “staff meal.”

    In the first episode of season 1, Sydney, hot and hungry to work with a world-class chef,  auditions — stages — for a kitchen role. Her first task is to make family meal as a way to distinguish herself. A soon-to-be coworker asks whether the meal will be impressive or delicious and her response is, “Delicious is impressive.” Right answer!

    Having worked in professional kitchens myself, family meal was a respite from the ordered chaos of food service. I always appreciated yummy, uncomplicated food that stood in stark contrast to the fussy plates that would soon go out to diners expecting to be impressed. It was food that didn’t require anything more than to simply eat and enjoy. It was a time to relax, regroup, and reconnect with your colleagues. And to cool down before things got too hot.

    I left restaurant work a long time ago, but I still practice family meals whenever possible: at photo shoots, in the test kitchen, and of course at home with my own family when we’re together. Not surprisingly, back when my kids were young, supper was often anything but a time to unwind. I had the unrealistic expectation that we could all sit down together for a drama-free 30 minutes. Honestly, it made me nostalgic for the camaraderie and congeniality of the restaurant — abusive atmosphere notwithstanding.

    It’s called family meal because restaurant folk, for better or worse, are like family. They pull together for the common good, depend on each other for support and affirmation, but most of all because they spend much of their waking hours in each others’ company. Like family, you may not always like one another but you want what’s best for one another. And that includes sustenance, care, and peace.

    Wishing you all family meals free of drama and full of yummy food.