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Last summer I put together a cookbook for my son and his wife as a wedding gift.  I wanted to include a dedication inside the front cover that would speak to the essence of the heart of the home, the kitchen—and more specifically the dinner table. Read on....

Gathered together on the pages inside this book are recipes from friends and families, many of them the centerpiece for many food traditions – a special cake for dad’s birthday every year, a hotdish that only grandma could make from scratch or memory, and soft, chewy cutout cookies lovingly decorated every Christmas by young and old alike.

What these food traditions have in common is the kitchen table that occupies a place of honor in the heart of the home. It’s where meals and memories are made, where families and friends gather, where traditions are born, and where stories are told and retold.

My childhood table had a Formica top and shiny aluminum legs that was surrounded by six chairs, only four of which matched. Despite the scratches on the tabletop from a misguided attempt at cleaning fish, that table was the most important piece of furniture in our house. It was where we gathered each day as a family to eat, converse and to connect.

As a child, I loved to visit my grandparent’s farm on Sunday afternoons. At suppertime we would circle around the table that had been extended with five leaves and eat overcooked hamburgers, salty soup and Grandma’s signature goulash. But best of all, it was a place where family stories were shared. Those tales of the past helped to link us kids to our family’s history. Relationships were strengthened and bridges built between generations. Around that table we discovered our sense of place.

It was around a kitchen table where I was introduced to and really got to know my future second family. Where I first passed the scrutiny of countless relatives on the Kottke side of the family. And where my mother-in-law opened my eyes to a whole new way of preparing food.

In our home, it was a place where our children first learned to handle a fork and spoon and drink from a cup. Where they shared the details of the day spent away from home, blew out birthday candles, brought friends home for dinner, and labored over learning fractions and struggled with adverbs and dangling participles.

Seated around that table we played Monopoly and Spoons, decorated countless dozens of Christmas cookies and worked on craft projects on long, winter days and whipped together last minute 4-H projects just days before the Fair.

It was also the place where serious business was discussed: the responsibility associated with a new driver’s license, and a place of reckoning when rules were broken.

Despite the demands of daily life, make it a point to lay all of life’s distractions aside to commune with friends and family around that wonderful kitchen table, sharing sustenance, conversation and yourself. This, is a true recipe for many wonderful and lasting memories and experiences.

Kottke is the editor of the Wisconsin State Farmer and the mom of four sons.

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