I had the privilege of sharing a dinner around a Kentucky kitchen table around my own hometown in Russell Springs. Being the small town that it embodies, it’s not hard to find somebody that you know. So I felt that the best place to have a good old Kentucky dinner is around the dining table of my girlfriend’s family. It’s a win-win situation for me because not only is there food, but I get to know more about the people that I might have lifelong connections to in the future and I received the opportunity to ask them questions that I wouldn’t get to ask them on any normal day.
Overall, there were six of us around the kitchen table ready to chow down and converse. I’ll introduce them in relation to my girlfriend: so there is Katelyn (my girlfriend), Aaron (Katelyn’s little brother), Edna (Katelyn’s mom), Harold (Katelyn’s dad), and Derrick (Katelyn’s uncle). Katelyn is a junior in high school, and participates a lot with the JROTC program there; in fact, she will be the commanding officer over the whole program during her senior year. Aaron is in 1st grade, and the best way I can describe him is that he has quite the wild imagination. Edna works as a lab technician for a drug testing company in Russell Springs. Harold can’t really work right now, due to him still recovering from his fight with cancer, and he wasn’t able to eat much around the Kitchen Table unfortunately. He has a very interesting past and is one of those people that if you get them talking, you could have a full day’s worth of conversation. And finally there is Derrick, who usually prefers staying around the house, but he enjoys cars and video games. I am probably the least familiar with Derrick out of everyone else.
Katelyn’s family is not originally from Russell Springs, and have only been a part of the community for around the past 4 years. But I believe they have fit into the small community wonderfully from their move from eastern Kentucky. The whole household is heavily involved in one of the local churches, and have no doubt played an impactful role on some of the other families in Russell Springs. I couldn’t imagine the hole that would have to be filled if they were to leave. But enough with background information, let’s get back to the meal at hand.
I insisted on bringing the entire meal, since I would be the guest of the hour and felt it would be a nice gesture to save Edna a night of cooking. My mom and I decided that chicken and dumplings sounded like a good traditional southern meal to have in a Kentucky home. So we prepared chicken and dumplings as the main entrée, with some mixed veggies, and a few oatmeal raisin cookies as a sweet treat. Edna would provide the silverware and the drinks.
After everyone got some country cooking to eat and settled around the table, I asked a few of the conversation starters. When I asked what it meant to be a citizen, Edna replied, “Being able to go to church whenever we want.” I found this reply interesting in the context of citizenship because religious freedom is a huge deal in the United States. But with recent events, that religious freedom might not be the same for everyone, like those from Islamic countries seeking safety. Katelyn mentioned our freedom to do what you want, and Aaron agreed by shouting across the kitchen table about his freedom to race cars. When I asked what the best thing was about living in Russell Springs, everyone agreed that their most loved thing were the people. Which I agree, since I feel like living in a smaller community makes it easier to know those around you. When I asked what obligations we have to others in our country, Katelyn and Edna both agreed that we should help those if they need it. This question reminded me over our section in class over empathy, and if we really do have an obligation to others. To me, I feel like it’s very situational. We may say we intend to help, but if we are shoved into the situation, what would we really do?
Probably one of the more depressing things I heard was that this was the first time in a while that the kitchen table has been used in Katelyn’s household. They never really had meals around the table growing up. I pondered about my own childhood, and my family really didn’t eat around the table either. It makes me wonder if that’s why I am not really as close to my family as a lot of people are. This was very thought-provoking to me, and made me wonder if the drifting apart of families and citizens as a whole are caused by something as simple as a lack of daily conversation around the kitchen table. This realization isn’t pleasant to think about, but it gives me a greater appreciation for what relationship I do have with my family. Overall, it was heartwarming to just come around a share a meal together; to just enjoy each other’s presence. This is something I would definitely consider doing again.