When I was young, my family used to gather around the dinner table every evening to enjoy a meal together. It was our special time to thank God for family, faith, and food, even if that meant praising the Lord for takeout.We also spent that time connecting with one another. My sister and I would talk about school and my parents would listen intently, soaking up every minute. After all, we wouldn’t be young and bright-eyed forever.
That was more true than we could’ve known. Almost overnight, we became adults and went off to have families of our own. Now, we have monthly dinners together as one big, happy family.
During the pandemic, however, these evenings of fellowship were put on hold. Instead, we were relegated to the worlds of Zoom and FaceTime. For the next 11 months, we only saw each other through a screen. While I was thankful for the opportunity to connect virtually, things just weren’t the same.
Finally, after nearly a year of waiting, everyone was able to receive vaccinations and we hosted our first family cookout since the pandemic began. We eagerly shared unmasked smiles, hugs, and laughter — not to mention a few tears of joy. God had brought us together, once again, over food. And it rekindled a sense of hope that I had almost forgotten was there.
As we passed around rolls, mac and cheese, and pitchers of lemonade, I was reminded of God’s grace. We had all survived the pandemic and were finally together again, safe and sound. We can only hope that the Lord will continue to protect us so we can keep communing and celebrating God’s goodness together.
Other families who rely on food to bring them together might try some of the recipes I used to plan our cookout. These dishes are relatively straightforward and only require a few basic ingredients, so they can spend less time in the kitchen and more time reconnecting with loved ones.
Vintage Green Bean Casserole
Green bean casserole has always been a favorite dish in our family, even when it’s not Thanksgiving. So I decided to make this old classic for our cookout.
How? Simply cook the green beans until they’re slightly tender. Then, coat them in cream of mushroom soup. Spread into a baking dish, add some shredded cheddar, and top with french-fried onions. Bake for about 30 minutes and then serve!
Chicken Bacon Ranch Kabobs
When I was planning our get-together, I wanted a main course that I could throw on the grill and have ready in about an hour. Hot dogs and hamburgers didn’t feel special enough for this occasion, so I made chicken bacon ranch kabobs instead.
All I did was add cubed chicken, onion, and bacon to skewers and cook them over the coals. I turned them every 20 minutes too and brushed on some BBQ sauce just before serving.
Best-Ever Macaroni and Cheese
The best thing about mac and cheese is that you can make it ahead of time and it’s even better the next day. I whipped up a pan of this best-ever macaroni and cheese two days beforehand, as it takes 25 minutes to prepare and more than an hour to bake.
Remember to add Worcestershire sauce for an extra ounce of umami flavor and top with toasted bread crumbs just before boiling if the fam likes things a bit crispy.
Worth the Wait
Waiting months to see my parents was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. My family is my entire world. And when we’re together, I can feel God’s presence moving among us. Thankfully, the Lord rewards patience, and I’m so glad we waited to see each other until it was safe to do so.
When we were together, there was no uneasiness or hesitation to share hugs. Everyone was able to let their guard down and reconnect like we did pre-pandemic, and I know we’re all looking forward to the next time we can see each other again.
If you’re still emerging from lockdown, consider some of the recipes above. And remember. There’s nothing like a family dinner to return a much-needed sense of normalcy.
What meal did you enjoy if you reunited with friends and family over food?