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For decades we have turned to chef and TV personality Andrew Zimmern to open our eyes to new foods, new worlds, and teach us about the exotic somewhere out there. But in his new offering, Family Dinner airing on the brand-new Magnolia Network, the veteran television host is taking us home. Not to his home, but to our homes.
We will travel the country with him as he pulls up a seat at dinner tables all around the U.S.A. to listen and learn about the food and family traditions that define us. And ultimately about what truly unites us. After over a year of isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic and the severe political division this country is experiencing, we have never needed a show like this more.
"We come in all shapes and sizes… no matter where we're from. But we can all relate and celebrate life together the same way. We do it at the kitchen table or the dining room table anyway. A family dinner doesn't have to be complex. It just has to be regular. In however you define regular. Weekly, monthly, whatever. We have to do it," Zimmern recently told Southern Living.
"Which is why a family meal and the setting of a family meal, and what is said at a family meal, always is deeper, and more connective, and more informative. And I learned for myself I have to keep doing more of that in my life. And I learned the importance that I placed on it, while large, was probably understated in my own life."
As in most of his television shows, Zimmern shows us just how much more alike we are than different by visiting American families from Miami to Minnesota and sampling cuisines from Creole to Italian to Cuban and everything in between.
"The more different the families are... the more similarities all the families have in common. Which is celebrating food, laughing, and really connecting with each other," Zimmern said.
And while the seasoned chef does roll his sleeves up and get to work under the guidance of the home chefs, he's really there to absorb and to learn and in turn pass on what he learns to all of us. And what he is really after is the why. What motivates us all, no matter race, religion, or origin story, to gather as a family?
"I remember one family telling me, there are 15 of them, they gathered every Sunday, why? And they pointed to one of the daughters who was in her 30s holding onto one of her kids who was a newborn, and I said why? And she just turned to me and said 'because my sister was killed in a car accident, and we all blamed each other, and no one spoke to each other for a year and then I just decided we can't do this. We need to get everyone together; we need to recommit to each other.'"
Zimmern continued, "First of all, out of a family tragedy to come up with something that is number one, so healing for everyone but also something that has created so much joy for so many and taught the next generation so much. It honors the loss of their sister so much. But we all have those things in our lives, right?"
Zimmern told us that this is what we have all hopefully learned from COVID, that we missed the act of being together. The show was conceptualized before the pandemic, but the new purpose it can now take on is not lost on him.
"It's a really entertaining food and travel show. Full stop. But if you really stop to look at what we're saying, if we could just get everyone on the couch to turn off, you know if they watch 3 or 4 episodes and turn to whomever they're with and say let's invite everyone over this weekend I think we make the world a better place."
Family Dinner and the entire Magnolia Network line up can currently be found on discovery+.