Family Style

“Can you pass the butter?” “Mmmm, this is delicious lasagna.  What spices did you use?” “What game do you want to play with me later tonight?”  “Remember our house rule that you can’t leave the table until everybody is finished . . . dessert is on the way too!”  “Uh oh, Leo’s cup fell. Who can help him and teach him how to hold it?”

At Carousel Connections, participants dine “family style.” This dining occurs with their group of peers (and any friendly guests that arrives), as well as Abe (7), Josie( 4), and Leo (almost two and always reaching to be a “big boy”).  There are so many lessons that come from eating as a family– enjoying healthy, balanced meals AND also the social dynamic of being together to share.

–We practice conversation skills.  We may use prompted conversations starters after serving, such as “Tonight is movie night. Let’s share about our favorite movies that we have seen in the theatre and at home” or a simple statement like, “What was exciting at work today? Who were the customers?” By the third session, this happens naturally and participants are chatting away!

–We observe expected dinner habits.   As part of our Class in Cycles, we learn about table “etiquette.”  These reminders also hang on the kitchen wall.  House “rules” or expectations include waiting to get up until everybody at the dinner table is finished (dessert is on the way . . .), using a gentle tone and asking for items to be shared, using utensils appropriately and eating in a clean manner, taking a fair and healthy portion of food/sides, etc.  

–We serve others.  A great sense of pride joins us at the table with participants who host dinner each evening. After listing the tasks for preparing the meal and reviewing the recipe, hosts go about cooking for the group.  Prior to eating, we hold a small planning meeting about the evening’s activities, share apartment news, and encourage “shout outs” or compliments to others.  Dinner hosts then introduce the meal and answer any questions about its preparations.  

— We listen.  An important rule within our group is to listen to each voice at the table and to engage in the conversation.  We discuss how even if you are sitting in the kitchen with two tables (just like in a restaurant), participants are directed to share with diners at their table, not the “crowd” in the “restaurant.”  This provides a more intimate setting for conversation.

–We compromise. How often do you hear the statement, “Is there anymore bread left? Oh no, who took the last piece?”  Our menu is set during our Group Planning Meeting. When dining together, we talk about compromise in meal and also in the steps to the cooking process.  

Abe, Josie, Leo and our Carousel Connections friends are ready for more fun tomorrow at dinner!  Living in an apartment provides so many opportunities for cooperation and working together — just like a family!