Food & Drink #10: The Family Dinner Table: R.I.P.
The dinner table has been a shared experience among all humankind since the dawn of time. It plays a huge part in many religions (i.e. the Seder Meal, The Last Supper, etc.) and has served as integral part of human life in cultures as diverse as the Vikings and The Chinese*..... that is, until the 1970's.
Sure, the cracks were showing as early as the sixties when the TV dinner became semi-popular; but, if you wanted to put a finger on it, you'd have to say it all unraveled in the late seventies.
So, what happened? Why did such an integral part of life go bye-bye? Well, there were a number of reasons, which I will list below. But let me make it clear that I'm not saying NO ONE eats as a family anymore. I'm simply saying the undeniable fact that the family at the dinnertable is a rare sight these days. Here's why.
1. Women at Work
The number one reason has to be that women entered the workforce. Now, the women (historically, the ones who prepared the meal) get home at the same time as dad. There's not much time available to plan, cook and serve a meal at the table.
2. Fast Food
It's important to note that all the factors listed are not independent. In other words, the popularity of fast food came about as a direct result of women entering the workforce (i.e. no available time). I can remember when an average size city had only one maybe two fast food joint. Maybe a Burger Chef and a Jack in the Box in a town of 350,000. Now, there's one on every corner. Sonic, McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell, Wendy's, Arby's, Hardee's, Long John Silver's, KFC, Crystals, White Castle, Chick-fil-A, Carl's Jr., Subway,.... THEY'RE EVERYWHERE!
3. The Vanishing Nuclear Family
Back in the day, parents stayed together even if they hated each other's guts. By the 1970's, single parent homes became more and more prevalent. A missing parent often means less time to prepare meals for the family to converge at the dinner table.
Okay, if people aren't eating together at the dinner table, where are they eating? Answer: In front of the television. Without the TV, there's almost no reason NOT to eat at the dinner table, if you get my drift.
5. Kids with Schedules
Back in the day, kids played outside and that was it... maybe an organized sport here and there. Nowadays, there's this insatiable need to have your kid in every fucking activity known to man. Baseball practice every other day, soccer practice, Girl Scouts, etc., etc, plus tons of homework. Quite frankly, it's hard to fit a family meal into these kids' busy schedule!
6. Separate Diets
Dad's on the Atkin's Diet, the kids are picky as hell, and mom is a vegetarian. It's awfully hard to serve a meal when food isn't just food anymore.
I'm sure there's a host of other reasons. If you think of one, please throw it in a comment. I'd be interested to hear your take.
* Yes, I know the ancient Chinese separated the genders at the dinner table.