One of the differences between the McKays and the McQueens is how we do dinner. This is the way it works in the McKay house:
On Sunday night mom cooks a big meal. Could be a roast, a stew, a lasagna, a chicken/turkey dinner, etc. Portions are measured out for each person and placed at their place at the table.
Dinner time is very quiet. You can hear each and every person chewing. Sometimes to kill the silence the TV will be turned on. Any conversation that does happen is generally predictable:
Mom: "Andrew, would you like some orange juice?"
Me: "Yes, please."
Mom: "Well, you know where it is."
Mom: "Would anybody like dessert?"
Us: "What is there?"
Mom: "Well, there's apples and oranges, and applesauce, and rice-cakes. And you know where they all are."
Although before the dessert question is asked, inevitably 2 people have already broken the silence with words asking "May I please be excused?" Followed by "Yes." Those people disappear.
At Christmas mom brings out these napkin holders and tells the same story every year. "Jack made these napkin holders when he was 6 years old. Remember, Jack?"
But, hey, that's what Christmas time is all about, right? Traditions? What would Christmas be without traditions?
After supper, the food is put in the fridge and we eat left-overs until they run out. Thursday night is spagetti night. Friday is "fish" (aka: Captain Highliner. We live in Nova Scotia and we have Captain Highliner! *spits on ground*) night. Saturday is pizza, or burger night or something. Apparently when I moved away the leftovers lasted even longer. Sometimes until Friday night. Ugh! Left-overs. Mashed potatos are pretty good the first night. But 5 days later they aren't very tasty.
Dinner with the McQueens is a vastly different affair. At the McKays you eat what you're given. No more. No less. At the McQueens there is much more flexability. Plates aren't always finished. But if you're hungry for more then have at it! Conversation is lively punctuated with belly-laughter and high-fives. We all share what's going on in our lives, how our days were, the ups and downs. Left-overs aren't unheard of, but they're usually left to grazing nights. A lot of preparation goes into dinner at the McQueens. Of course, with a house of artists they like to try different things. That can make for some really great dishes. It can also make for some very interesting dishes.
With with great preparation comes great preparation times. This is another big difference. At the McKay household, during the week, the dinner plates are prepared the night before. When you want supper, take a plate out of the fridge and nuke it in the microwave. Eat. Supper can take as little as 5 minutes.
With the McQueens it's a little different. Okay. A lot different. Food is actually prepared. It can take a lot longer too. But I suppose that's the nature of the beast. If you want a good meal, you have to actually make it.
However one thing that does slow things down is the numerous processes executing in the kitchen at any given moment. In the McKay kitchen if you go near the kitchen you're likely to get pulled in to help, like a free roaming electron getting near a positively charged ion. My sister might not have minded so much, but to Jack and I, this was a fate to be avoided. So we stayed away from the kitchen.
Not only do the McQueen kids go near the kitchen during dinner prep time, they'll actually not want to wait for supper to be ready, so they'll go in and make themselves a snack. This adds to the confusion in the kitchen, creates more dirty dishes, and can deplete resources, such as milk, that may be needed for the main course. Not to mentioned ruined appetites. (Of course, as Seinfeld says "One of the great things about being an adult is knowing you have an infinite number of appetites. If you ruin one there'll be another one following close behind." So, a ruined appetite is no biggie.)
Following supper is family devotions. Pastor Jack will get out a Bible and read something, then we'll discuss it. Following is prayer.
Supper at McKay's is often in front of the TV during the week. With everyone on different schedules it's just easier that way. Get your food, nuke it, eat it where you like. Supper is rarely in front of the TV at the McQueen's.
All that to say dinner time at the McQueen's house isn't a 20 minute affair. It's more like 2 hours. But we eat well, and it's a really good time for bonding, etc.