When I was growing up, the kids in my neighborhood played outside after school.  Kick the can was a neighborhood favorite, as were bicycle parades, ghost in the graveyard, mud pies, and frog catching down at the pond.  Every night around six o’clock mothers up and down the street would stick their heads out of doors to call their kids home—some with voices that could carry for blocks, others with dinner bells.  Each bell had a signature sound and each ringer had a signature style.  We always knew whose turn it was to grab a bike and pedal home.

Aidan rings the old cow bell.

My mother rang an old cow bell with a thudding, off-key clang.  If my brothers and I didn’t high-tail it home, she would also belt out our names in a sing-song voice —“Hi-dah Ruth”—something we desperately hated.  Most nights we would practically kill each other in the race to the bathroom to wash our hands before the final dash to the table.  Sometimes we would then wait and say grace as a family, but most nights we would dig in as soon as the food hit our plates.  In a way our whole meal was a grace.

My mother is a fabulous cook and we ate mountains of good food each night.  We talked about school and our day as we asked each other to please pass the butter or the peas.  We fed our vegetarian cat green beans under the table, the same ones we had snapped that afternoon, and we laughed and schemed about our next family adventure.  In essence, we broke bread together every night, a communion that solidly anchored me during the storms of childhood and adolescence.

The tradition of breaking bread together as a family is one I continue with my sons.  In my ideal world I see myself spending idyllic hours in the kitchen, preparing fabulous tasting, organic meals from scratch with the help of two smiling boys—the kind of meals I routinely cooked before they were born.  Like most of you, I do not live in this world.  I am a single mother of twin toddlers and a PhD student trying to write a dissertation. In other words, I am super pressed for time, super stressed by responsibilities and super blessed with two silly boys who think diving under the table is acceptable dinner behavior.

Two proud cooks show off a soup pot of goodies.

The Dinner Bell is a place to explore and share sensible solutions and inspirations for family meal time.  At The Dinner Bell you will find recipes for simple, good food that can be prepared around a busy parent’s schedule.  You will find ways to please your picky eater without cooking separate meals, ways to extend the dinner hour by letting your kids help cook, and ways to deal with annoying pre-school antics without compromising the sanctity of your table.  You will find ideas for making your dinner table a place of acceptance, for including young kids in the conversation and for creating family dinner rituals. Most of all, you will find comraderie and support as you honor your own commitment to sit down each night and break bread with your family.

Welcome to my table.

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