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March 2003
Destination: Manila

FEATURE STORY

Family at dinner A Family Affair
by Monica Obaldo

"I have to work late tonight. My favorite TV show is on right now. I have band practice. I'm too exhausted to cook..."

These are but few of the excuses we hear from family members (ourselves included) come dinnertime. In this day and age, gathering as a family at the dinner table is quite hard to accomplish, some would even say impossible. This is especially true of families with children aged 12 and up and with both parents working full-time. Each family member is involved in his or her own activities that time spent with the family is reduced to just a few hours a week.

Here lies the importance of the family dinner--making up for lost quality time. According to an article on the value of sharing meals by Gayle Peterson, "Sharing family dinners sets the stage for us to value our family relationships, rather than take them for granted. Consistently having dinner together as a family also keeps us in touch, allowing us to trouble-shoot problems in daily living, as well as keeping us abreast of our family members' activities and life experience."

Busy Family

Yet there is still the problem of assembling everyone in one place at the same time. Other problems associated with dinner are the preparations and tasks needed to pull off a meal together. There must be someone (usually mom) who has to cook, someone who must arrange the table and someone who should clean up afterwards. Many families, in the face of so many requirements that have to be accomplished at the same time, give up the idea of a family dinner altogether.

Enter the "new family dinner". According to Carol Wallace, author of the article The New Family Dinner, "[it] is a flexible tradition that can be accomplished in a myriad of ways. The first step is getting rid of your preconceptions."

Indeed, we should not confine ourselves to thinking of the family dinner as something that is something energy draining and time consuming. The first misconception that we have to do away with is the notion that the family dinner has to take place at home. Usually when everyone gets home, all of us feel tired from the day's activities and all we want to do is plop down at the table and eat, to hell with cooking and setting up the table. Eating out is a good way to sidestep this hassle of family dinners.

Il Ponticello

Metro Manila abounds with eating places that can be classified into "family restaurants". One such place is Il Ponticello, hidden away in the heart of Makati. Located on the 2nd floor of Antel 2000 on Valero St., Il Ponticello is said to be Makati's best-kept secret. Part of the attraction is the restaurant's serene atmosphere and the attentive service that gives the place the feel of one's own home. Ponti's, as it is fondly called, offers mainly Italian cuisine. Must try's are the Gorgonzola (a delicate thin-crust pizza made with layers of real gorgonzola cheese), the Risotti alla Boscaiola and the Scallopine alla Marsala.

Via Mare Fare Redi Feast

One of the pitfalls of eating dinner at home is everyone more or less has to eat the same thing. For families who want variety, Via Mare is just the thing. This restaurant offers excellent cuisine from Asian to Filipino-Spanish to Continental. Via Mare, also boasts of seafood as its specialty. It has branches all over the metro, the most recent one in Eastwood City in Libis. Via Mare even offers an alternative for the really busy ones or those who want to eat in their own homes-introducing Redi-Feast, a microwaveable home meal replacement. And its rich in nutrition, too.

Aside from Via Mare, a couple of "family restaurants" have sprung up in Libis, one of them being Country Waffles. This is not just a breakfast and waffles place, but it also offers decent dinner meals.

For families who are in a rush but who still want to spend even a little time with one another, Fazoli's is the place to be. It can be considered as a fast food of sorts, but minus the noise and the crowdedness. Fazoli's offers mainly Italian fare, and is famous for its garlic bread sticks and pasta dishes. It is very affordable compared to most restaurants, and you can drink all you can without waiting for the waiter to come by your table.

Cravings Katipunan

Who says family dinners are just about dinner? Eating out for dessert is also a good way to spend time with the family. The Cravings Group boasts of "endless pleasures", with establishments such as the Cravings Restaurant and Bakeshop and The Coffee Beanery under its name offering sumptuous European baked products and pastries. The Cravings Restaurant and Bakeshop also offers a variety of dishes from Filipino, to Asian to European, and even "healthy menu items" (those with checkmarks beside the food name in the menu) for patrons who watch out for their diet. Cravings Restaurant and Bakeshop is conveniently located with branches in Katipunan, Robinson's Place Ermita, Shangri-la Mall, Wilson St. and Fraser Place in Makati.

Another misconception is family dinners should be done everyday. Everyone has his or her own schedule which most often than not, conflicts with the schedules of other family members. Eating together every single day is not practical, and could get very expensive if the family were to dine out. Thrice a week is good, but even just once a week is fine so long as everyone is present to share the meal. Special occasions such as birthdays, promotions, or celebrating a family member's accomplishments also serve as good reasons for the family to eat together.

With these exciting options for a get together, its hard to think of excuses NOT to have a family dinner. But most importantly, we must all keep in mind that in order to eat together as a family, the only real requirement from each member is to make it a priority.

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