Making a comeback.

Grandma and grandpa had things figured out. Take Sunday dinners, for example. For many families just a few generations ago, Sundays meant a big family meal, and more than one generation often sat down together. Family stories, humor and who’s-doing-what kept the conversation lively, and the personalities of old and young alike were on full display. And the meal itself? It often was the most special meal of the week, something that cooked for a while like a slowly-braised roast or crisply-roasted chicken.

Sundays in the modern generation are typically quite different. In many ways, Sundays are like the other days of the week — busy and plugged-in, full of distractions. But the idea of family rituals remains appealing, and a regular weekly meal is returning. And not just for nostalgia’s sake. Families are simply missing each other. It’s time to rediscover dinnertime.

Families that eat (and cook) together stay together.

Recent studies underscore the benefits for children in families that share meals together. Family meals boost better behavior, teach manners and let children practice talking to adults. Cooking together can also help promote core learning fundamentals like reading and math when kids measure ingredients, read instructions, set timers and monitor food safely. Even cleaning up afterwards can be fun and keep the conversation going, involving family members of any age. 

Many hands make light the work.

When everyone contributes to the meal — from setting the table to shaking up the salad dressing — family meals get even sweeter. Teamwork supports a sense of belonging and creates a unique identity that provides security for kids.

So when’s the right time for a family meal? Anytime! Sunday dinners are great, but if Fridays are better for make-your-own-pizza meals, or Mondays for slow-cooker-soup night, go for it. No matter what it takes, keeping things simple helps weekly meals become routine. Ask the family to help for menu suggestions. Being part of the planning process lets everyone take some ownership in creating pleasurable meals.

A traditional foundation for Sunday dinners.

A whole roasted chicken is probably one of the most recognizable symbols of a Sunday dinner, and few meats cross so many borders or cuisines with so many possibilities. A simple chicken has a presence for special occasions when roasted and served whole, ready to be carved at the table.

Another option for making the most of a whole chicken is cutting it apart yourself, either for certain recipes and also for making stock. Because a whole chicken is about the best bargain in the meat department, knowing the knife technique and where to cut is a good idea. As this step-by-step guide demonstrates, it’s an easy process to learn.

Who’s ready to sit down for supper? Cell phones are off. Work email can wait. What happened at school today? Really? That reminds me of a story.