Updated: Aug 31, 2021
I find that it is much too common for people to have a sense of urgency while at meals. There is always a new place to get to, a task that needs to be completed, or a deadline that needs to be met. It would be nice to slowly enjoy the meal, be present in good company and sit for a while after the meal is done. Here in America it feels that this is reserved for special occasions or festive holidays. La sobremesa is the Spanish term that defines all that is good about meal times and sharing the meal with family and friends as well as enjoying the conversation that takes place after eating.
Oddly enough, or maybe not so odd at all, the English language does not have a direct translation for this word. Even the all knowing Google translate seems to be confused. It translates it to desktop, dessert, and table cover. To be fair, the literal translation really is over the table but the Spanish definition is far from this.
(n.) the time spent around the table after lunch or dinner,
talking to the people you shared the meal with; time to digest
and savor both food and friendship.
The concept is not only to be mindful but to be ever so present. To build not only a an understanding for satiety and satisfaction but to build on the understanding of relationships with people and just as importantly with food.
When we rush through our meals we do not sit to understand what our body needs. Satiety and satisfaction are not usually our focus. We need to eat, so we do. We have to fit it into our day with sufficient time to get back to work or school or the project we were working on. The importance of la sobremesa goes beyond the enjoyment of people and allows the growth of the relationship that we, as well as our children, develop with food and meal times. If we develop a negative relationship with food we tend to have rigid food rules and lose trust in our body’s innate ability to tell us what it needs.
La sobremesa in many ways promotes intuitive eating and enjoyment of food and people. Something that disordered eating patterns and rigid food rules take away from us.
Being from a Mexican family I can say this was something that would happen quite often. Maybe not daily but most days of the week. Sitting together to have dinner as a family was important. Growing up it didn’t seem like something that made a big impact on my day but it truly did. Looking back if provided me the opportunity to develop the skills of understanding hunger and fullness as well as the importance of conversation with those around you.
Independent of our cultural background it might just be beneficial to consider incorporating some form of la sobremesa into our daily routines. Even if that means dinner is the only time to sit with family and discuss the events of the day. What would it look like to enjoy a meal and those around you while being mindful of the people and the food? Is this the norm for you? Do you and your family already do this but had no idea there was a term for it? Whatever your answers to these questions might be, the upcoming summer seems like a good time to put this term to good use.