Added: Irfan Eager - Date: 07.10.2021 09:14 - Views: 35933 - Clicks: 5175
After my mother passed away and my brother went to study in New Zealand, the first thing that really felt different was the dinner table. My father and I began eating separately. We went out to dinners with our friends, ate sandwiches in front of our computers, delivery pizzas while watching movies. Some days we rarely saw each other at all. Then, a few weeks before I was set to leave for university, my father walked downstairs.
It was therapeutic: an excuse to talk, to reflect on the day, and on recent events. Our chats about the banal—of baseball and television—often led to discussions of the serious—of politics and death, of memories and loss. Eating together was a small act, and it required very little of us—45 minutes away from our usual, quotidian distractions—and yet it was invariably one of the happiest parts of my day.
Sadly, Americans rarely eat together anymore. In fact, the average American eats one in every five meals in her car, one in four Americans eats at least one fast food meal every single day, and the majority of American families report eating a single meal together less than five days a week.
Not eating together also has quantifiably negative effects both physically and psychologically. Children who do not eat dinner with their parents at least twice a week also were 40 percent more likely to be overweight compared to those who do, as outlined in a research presentation given at the European Congress on Obesity in Bulgaria this May. On the contrary, children who do eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents less often, according to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
There are two big reasons for these negative effects associated with not eating meals together: the first is simply that when we eat out—especially at the inexpensive fast food and take-out places that most children go to when not eating with their family—we tend not to eat very healthy things.
As Michael Pollan wrote in his most recent book, Cookedmeals eaten outside of the home are almost uniformly less healthy than homemade foods, generally having higher fat, salt, and caloric content. The other reason is that eating alone can be alienating.
The dinner table can act as a unifier, a place of community. Sharing a meal is an excuse to catch up and talk, one of the few times where people are happy to put aside their work and take time out of their day. After all, it is rare that we Americans grant ourselves pleasure over productivity just look at the fact that the average American works nearly hours more per year than the average Frenchman. In many countries, mealtime is treated as sacred.
In France, for instance, while it is acceptable to eat by oneself, one should never rush a meal.
In many Mexican cities, townspeople will eat together with friends and family in central areas like parks or town squares. In Cambodia, villagers spread out colorful mats and bring food to share with loved ones like a potluck. InElizabeth David, who was recognized as the sort of soul-stirring American culinary evangelist du moment, as perhaps Alice Waters or David Lebovitz is today, published A Book of Mediterranean Food. She wrote that great food is simple. In one particularly salient passage, she writes:.
Her equation for physical and psychological well-being is easy: Eat simply and eat together. For the average American family, who now spends nearly as much money on fast food as they do on groceries, this simplicity is not so easily achieved.
Perhaps the root of this problem is cultural misperception. How then do we eat better, not just from a nutritional perspective, but from a psychological one as well? Although it would be nice to eat healthily as well, even take-out makes for a decent enough meal, psychologically speaking, so long as your family, roommates, or friends are present. Although we often end up just a bit too squeezed to make it to the gym in the morning, we can still find time to go to the movies after work.
Perhaps seeing eating together not as another appointment on a busy schedule, but rather as an opportunity to de-stress, a chance to catch up with those whom we love then, could help our children do better in school, get in better shape, and be less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Eating together also led children to report better relationships with their parents and surely relationships between adults can similarly benefit. On our last night before I left home to return to school, my father and I went out to our favorite hometown restaurant, a Sichuan place where we always order the same thing: Yu Xiang Qiezi for me, Black Date Chicken for him.
But even after 60 years of life on this planet and countless dinners here, he still could not properly hold a pair of chopsticks.
He nodded. Popular Latest. The Atlantic Crossword. In Subscribe.We were having dinner with other people
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The Importance of Eating Together