Once upon a time, a long time ago, my husband and I got married and packed up my kids and moved 1,000 miles away to begin our new life together. The necessary adjustments in blending a family presented challenges, of course, and by the time we’d returned to visit family for the holidays, it felt like we were just starting to gel as a little unit. So when we somehow managed to screw up our Christmas Eve plans—we drove a couple of hours from where we were staying to attend a service at my old church, then realized the kids couldn’t wait until we got home for dinner, but everything from regular restaurants to fast food was closed—I was sure we’d ruined Christmas. But… we stopped at a gas station, and bought a bunch of nondescript sandwiches in triangular plastic containers to eat in the car on the long ride back.
This was when the kids were young enough to be picky eaters as well as flummoxed whenever their routine was disrupted. But we presented those sandwiches to them as if we were having the most exciting treat in the world. And it was snowing! Look at all the pretty snow, guys! Everyone ate their sandwiches, and we talked and laughed as we drove back to our relatives’ house. I remember those sandwiches being surprisingly good for gas station food, and now I know why:
A new research survey has revealed that meals are remembered more positively when they included good company, regardless of what the actual food was like.
The analysis revealed a memorable meal typically involved cooked food, wine, family and friends, and a “positive emotional state”.
Common highlights included meals eaten while on holiday, in romantic or in fine dining settings, or made at home with a special ingredient.
Other settings were “hearty, home-cooked” meals, those prepared either traditionally or spontaneously, or those remembered for cooking disasters.
What does this mean for our everyday happiness? Stop worrying so much about having just the right food on the table, and instead, make sure you have the right people around the table—the meal will be a memorable and happy one, even if the food isn’t fancy or perfect.
Thanksgiving is coming, and the winter holidays, after. If you want to eat, drink and be merry, focus on the “be merry” part. The rest will fall into place.