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The phrase, “Winter is coming” is a euphemism for the ominous times ahead in the Game of Thrones world.

Not so for UAE residents — who eagerly wait for the cool days of winter, after a long spell of cooling off in the air-conditioned confines of our homes, malls and cars.

This was evident when I visited a park that was teeming with happy families socialising while I attempted to burn some calories. It was rejuvenating to watch friends and family catch up.

Where there is friendship, there is food and the greatest joys of togetherness is breaking bread together.

Now we continue this tradition of family dinners in our home without television most of the time.

- Pranitha Meno, writer

As I walked past the irresistible aroma of food, my salivary glands drooled, stomach rumbled as my hunger-fatigued mind transported me to my mother’s kitchen and shockingly my own kitchen alongside which an extensive dinner plan was taking form. That evening, a faint recollection of the Erma Bombeck quote, “I got to thinking about all the women in the Titanic who passed up dessert,” drowned the guilt of making food tastier, dessert sweeter and the experience of sharing a table with my family blissfully beautiful.

Now I go mornings.

Sharing food has always been a part of the human story. With food, we make friends, count our blessings and forge relationships. We even bury our differences because it is distracting and difficult to argue between tucking into your favourite dessert!

When mother made a call for dinner, toys were abandoned, televisions switched off and books closed as we gathered around the centre of our universe — the table.

For the next hour we revolved like planets basking around the attentive warmth of our parents, who put down their guards as we ranted about our day, collectively drawn in by the gravity of simple but delicious food and the longing for each other’s company.Family sd

Family dinners

Those shared dinners are a reminder of my gratitude to my mother’s efforts, the laughs we shared, the tears of an unarticulated apology, those awkward moments when we pretended to choke on our food when we blurted out something more than we intended to and indulged in mild teasing.

But most of all this was an affirmation of the bond we shared.

Those dinner conversations were the richest and most powerful language experiences that I carry with me today.

Now we continue this tradition of family dinners in our home without television most of the time. It is invariably impossible not to make eye contact, a human trait that is sadly declining even among members sharing the same roof, as we pass dishes that are not always perfect between conversing, complaining and resetting the affirmation that there are listening ears, caring eyes and hot food at the end of the day.

In a day and age where the table — which instilled a sense of discipline for a family eating together — has transformed into a solitary eating space, in the “enticing” company of windows that open into a gleaming virtual world that finds a link with obesity, poor performance at school, depression and eating disorders, I am glad that among the many parental mistakes I am guilty of, this is not one of them.

If you have more excuses than reasons to find time and space on the table for a family meal, you could start out by managing one on odd days and succumb to your excuses on even days. By the end of the week, you will have more reasons to win over the smog of assumptions, presumptions and excuses between clearing the table off of virtual windows for some real bonding and strengthening loose familial ties.

As for the extra helpings that you enjoy in the joys of togetherness, there are community parks, jogging tracks and fine weather.

For best results, go mornings.

— Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @MenonPranitha

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