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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Book Review: "The Hour That Matters Most"

TITLE: The Hour that Matters Most: The Surprising Power of the Family Meal
AUTHORS: Les & Leslie Parrott (with Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna)
PUBLISHER: Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2011.

This unique book combines three features in one. Firstly, it is a book about family values. Secondly, it is a book about restoring the lost art of relationships over the dinner table. Thirdly, it is a cookbook! What is really good is the way the authors have managed to sew all three aspects and consolidate them all in one volume.

For the 4 authors, this book is not simply another publishing project. It is a collective calling to bring back the lost art of a 'home-cooked meal.' It is not only something for the stomach, but for the soul. It is not merely the eating, but the conversations. It is not the hassle of food preparation, but the continued learning and practice of hands on work in the kitchen which can be enjoyable. Each chapter talks about a certain aspect of food, both relational, physical, emotional as well as spiritual. Each chapter contains an easy to follow recipe. Interwoven throughout the book are insights captured over the years by each author. The research data and studies provide the book additional credibility on top of an already powerful work.

My Comments

Reading this book is like entering into a conversation among the 4 friends. There is humour and wit. There are insights and practical applications. There are tips about starting a conversation and sustaining open communications. This book is a clarion call to families to stop living a "Gobble-Gulp-and-Go" lifestyle. It repeats the mantra that the dinner table is a sacred place that has no room for TV, technological gadgetry, and anything that distracts us from having a good family conversation. It recognizes the distractions of the world that threatens to tear the fabric of society apart, and to make the dinner time a safe haven for every family member to find common time and common space simply to talk, and build relationships.

I appreciate the thorough treatment by the authors. There are tips not only in the kitchen, but also on table setup, dinner etiquette, purposeful conversations, instilling values, and many more. My favourite is Chapter 5, "How to listen so your kids talk." It is so true that adults tend to ask questions badly. Listening is an active disposition that requires clarification and empathy. I especially appreciate the three components of active listening, especially the part about clarifying before making any form of conclusion or judgment. This is particularly true in the example of 'reflection,' where one paraphrases in such a way that communicates an understanding, as well as a bridge to further the conversation. It is a way of saying:

"I am with you and want to understand you better." (65)

The wide range of topics in the book essentially gives us a clue that nearly everything can be a conversation starter or topic at the table. The truth is that when the relationships are good, any topic is fun and loving. Written wisely, communicated wittingly, the book encourages (and enables) busy people to make full use of one of the day's most precious gift: Dinner time.

Ratings: 4.5 stars of 5.


Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book without any obligation for a positive review. The review above are freely mine.

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