Tuesday, October 22, 2019

When Family Dinners Are Silent

From Return to Order:
Stagnant and sterile silence dominates so many households. This is the conclusion of a recent survey in the U.K. about family habits there. These same bad habits are quite present in America, probably in similar proportions. They can also be found in differing degrees all over our globalized world. One particularly tragic finding of this survey of 2,500 U.K. citizens is that a third of the families sit in complete silence during meal times. A further three in ten respondents report they have problems finding topics for dinner conversation.

Of course, there is also the problem of getting people to eat together in the same place at meals. About four in ten parents generally do not have meals together with their children at the same time. Ten percent of the respondents say they never have meals together as a family. (Read more.)

The death of fine dining. Also from Return to Order:
 Eating in front of screens has gone on for years. When television first entered the home in the fifties, people ate as they watched their favorite shows. They served factory-prepared frozen meals called T.V. dinners on T.V. trays. The Swanson company even pictured its offerings in a frame that simulated the cabinet of a television.

Today, the survey notes that forty-nine percent of Americans say that they regularly watch television while eating. On the other hand, average Americans only eats three meals per week at their kitchen tables. Twenty-two percent of Americans zombie-eat lunch in front of their office computers. “Zombie eating is something most of us can relate to – we’re busy, we’re productive, and we’re constantly on the move,” says Pretzel Crisps’ Senior Brand Manager Syreeta Norwood.

A surprising amount of research is available about social eating patterns. Food plays a huge role in social life.  In the 1995 book, Food and Nutrition, P. Fieldhouse says that “food is a vehicle for expressing friendship, for smoothing social intercourse, for showing concern. It is also ridden with status symbolism and is manipulated, subtly or blatantly, to demonstrate differences in social standing. There might almost be a dictum which says where two or more people gather together then let there be food and drink.”

Eating in groups, especially families, is healthier than zombie eating. Christie Wilcox, a contributor to Nutrition Wonderland, cites statistics in the United Kingdom. She points out that “married women with children are the healthiest group of people, followed closely by married men.” She adds that “the mortality rate for single men between 30 and 59 is 2.5 times higher than their married counterparts.”

Living alone is a major cause of zombie eating. More Americans live alone than ever. USA Today reported that U.S. Census Bureau figures from 2010 show that “The sheer number of Americans living alone has more than tripled since 1970 to 33.2 million.” More than one household out of four is occupied by only a single person. (Read more.)

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