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Here are my guys — Mike, Nathaniel and Alexander. I love them! Family is a gift.

Many people do not realize that I did not speak with ease until I was about seventeen years old. And let me just say it before you do, I’ve certainly made up for it over the years! (hearty laugh) A terrible speech impediment (extreme stuttering) caused me great anxiety and made even saying my own name nearly impossible. It was in my grandmother’s kitchen that I found refuge — it was my safe haven. This is one reason why I am so passionate about cooking with family and friends. As many of you know, my mission has always been to inspire families to connect in their kitchens and around their tables. In my own experience, cooking and eating together strengthens and nurtures relationships quicker and stronger than any other way.

As a child, I never dreamed of having my story, passion and recipes featured in magazines, in books and on television. God is great! Sometimes God uses those who we least expect and this homeschooling mom of 21 years never expected the opportunities I have been given. I am certainly humbled and thankful.

Here’s why I am so passionate about family meals:

Remember when families went out to eat to celebrate a special occasion? Now I hear far too often how people stay at home and eat together only on special occasions. This saddens me more than I can express in words.

80% of families value family mealtime, but only 1 in 3 achieve success. Here’s what success looks like:

Family Meals 5 or more times per week spells S-U-C-C-E-S-S.

S = Safe, secure place to belong

U= Unlikely to smoke, drink, do drugs, and engage in premarital sex.  Psychologists compare the family meal to a vaccination protecting kids from harm.  Children who eat with their families 5 or more days a week also avoid fights, and are less likely to be depressed and contemplate suicide.

C= Courteous and Conversational. The family table is a natural training ground.  Children learn social skills and manners.  Children learn how to have pleasant conversations and how to talk things through.  Children learn a better vocabulary. Learn to behave properly, learn how to not interrupt, take turns, learn how to share, and how be polite. Children learn how to listen.  Children learn how to entertain guests which is a great lesson for life.  Children who are nurtured learn how to care for others.

C= Connected and Committed.  Stronger family ties.  Place to belong – a place of refuge.  Greater sense of identity.  Children learn how to commit and keep a schedule.

E- Eat Better.   Children who eat as family 4 to 5 days per week do better in school; get better grades.  These children test higher than children who eat only 1 to 2 times a week.  They eat better.  They eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, iron and fiber; less intake of soft drinks and sugar.  Are less likely to suffer from eating disorders; have better weight control.

S= Self Esteem.  Mealtime conversation brings the family together, promotes positive self-esteem in children and starts a lasting and positive relationship with food and family.  Families learn how to share the responsibilities of preparing and cleaning up meals before, during and after the meal.

S= Success in School.  Children who eat 4 to 5 times a week together as a family do much better in school. They receive better grades, achieve higher achievement test scores; have improved vocabulary and reading skills.

We recently welcomed my literary agent to our home. David told our family of his time at a homeschooling convention. The speaker from Focus on the Family asked the hundreds of families present to please raise their hands if they cook and eat together at their family table more than three times a week. David was shocked to see only a few hands rise. It is stories like these that made me write my new cookbook, YOU NEVER COOK ALONE. You Never Cook Alone is much more than a cookbook however.

This is one review on Amazon:

“”You Never Cook Alone” is not your average, “cookie-cutter” cookbook. Elise Johnson has written a cookbook that is true to its subtitle, “Stirring Memories, Feeding Souls and Building Legacies”. The pages are not only filled with delicious, mouth-watering recipes, cooking tips, and activity suggestions, but they are also overflowing with stories that will warm your heart with joy and laughter, and may even bring a tear to your eye.” You can read the book description and editorial review here.

 If spending time in the kitchen and around the table with my family helped me speak, imagine what it can do for other families! Elise

Read more about our well-fed family in the recent article found in the Cary and Triangle East Magazine here!

Photographs taken by K Nicole Photography