Monday, June 4, 2012

Of Crockpots and Motel Rooms--an Interview with Martha Fowler

Tell me about your family. Who is regularly around your table?
Now it’s usually just the 2 of us, our 2 daughters come home from college on breaks; Anna, 19, Abigail, 17.

You grew up on the mission field. Can you describe family meals there?
Volcano from the roof of their house in Guatemala.
Martha is on the right playing market.
I grew up in Guatemala, came to the states at 18. We didn’t have a television, so we always ate together around the table without that interruption. We didn’t have breakfast together, but each one ate when they got up. My younger sister, Sarah, until she was about 4, would sit in her high chair and eat breakfast with all of us—just waiting for each one to come. When we went to Indian villages for meetings and clinics and would eat sandwiches together wherever we could sit. 

How often did you have family meals with your girls?
At least twice a day--lunch and supper. My husband comes from a home where they had breakfast together, so on the weekend he expects us to have breakfast together.
We did some years of homeschooling including all of high school, so the girls were home for lunch then.

What would you say is the strong point of your family meals? How did it start, intentionally or did it evolve? 
The Prayer of Thanksgiving
It would be the Prayer of Thanksgiving. Usually my husband prays or the girls and I take turns when he’s not here. We thank the Lord for the food and remember whatever other prayer requests we have in the family before we start eating. It just happened. It’s kind of an opening to what we’re going to talk about or a closing to what we’ve been talking about before the meal. It’s a refocusing of our thoughts on the Lord. 

What do you do at the table besides eat?
Usually we’ll talk about our day, what’s happened, people we’re concerned about or appreciate. Sometimes we plan something—a vacation or holiday coming up. We celebrate birthdays with a special meal and the honored person gets to choose the meal. 

Thanksgiving with her husband
When the girls were late elementary aged they would make little name cards for us as a sort of art project that fit the season or celebration. The kids’ school work, art, and letter writing was done at the kitchen table, too.

What was one rule you found yourself telling your kids over and over?
Lately in teen age years, “Slow down, don’t eat so fast.” We really did very little fussing at the table about making them eat and things like that. I taught them to like vegetables by taking them to farms where you can pick your own and we picked together. One day we picked tomatoes and my husband was astonished that they ate tomatoes that night when they’d never liked them before.

Is there anything you would do differently regarding family mealtimes if you could start over again with your family?
I would have devotions at least once a day with them after a meal. I would have them clear and rinse their plates, because that’s a good life habit.

What’s the most unusual meal you’ve ever had as a family? 
We took a weeklong trip to Washington D.C. To make it affordable, we took the Crockpot along and cooked all our meals in the hotel room. One night we had grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Our crock pot is a multipurpose cooker with a Teflon base. There’s a book by Edith Schaffer, Hidden Art, in which she talks about eating picnics in hotel rooms and making things pretty any time you eat a meal. 

How has including others around your table enriched your meals?
We haven’t had as many guests as I would like. We always enjoy having people over, whoever it’s been. It makes it more interesting and enjoyable.

What would you like your children to remember about family mealtimes when they grow up?
I’d like my girls to know the importance of family mealtimes and to continue having them, to make it a priority wherever they are.

What advice would you give to families with school age children who want to start meaningful family mealtimes?
Make it fun! That way the kids will want to do it. Include them in the planning and decorating of the table. Get them involved in the whole process.

Martha Fowler of Greenville SC, enjoys helping with Emmaus Bible Correspondence courses and Bible camps and works part time as a recovery room nurse. Current challenges include Interstitial Cystitis and memorizing the book of Philippians.  Her hobbies are listening to her daughters play cello, piano and violin, arranging flowers and thrift shopping. She has the same desert rose pattern dishes as Sharon and a refrigerator covered with pictures of family and friends from around the world.

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