My wife and I really, really love cooking and eating together, whether with friends or just with our kids. Those who eat together stay together they say – but it is also about what you eat and how you eat. This terrific article from Time magazine touches on some of the reasons:
‘‘In fact, it’s the experts in adolescent development who wax most emphatic about the value of family meals, for it’s in the teenage years that this daily investment pays some of its biggest dividends. Studies show that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use. If it were just about food, we would squirt it into their mouths with a tube,” says Robin Fox, an anthropologist who teaches at Rutgers University in New Jersey, about the mysterious way that family dinner engraves our souls. “A meal is about civilizing children. It’s about teaching them to be a member of their culture.”
The most probing study of family eating patterns was published in 2011 by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University and reflects nearly a decade’s worth of data gathering. The researchers found essentially that family dinner gets better with practice; the less often a family eats together, the worse the experience is likely to be, the less healthy the food and the more meager the talk. Among those who eat together three or fewer times a week, 45% say the TV is on during meals (as opposed to 37% of all households), and nearly one-third say there isn’t much conversation. Such kids are also more than twice as likely as those who have frequent family meals to say there is a great deal of tension among family members, and they are much less likely to think their parents are proud of them.’
I do not want to sound ‘holier than thou’, but we have always believed that the table is a central part of our family life. Our children have always eaten what we eat and always stay at the table and talk to us about their day or about something in the news, or we have just laughed, cried or argued about life together. They have never had T.V. dinners and both are my best critics when it comes to my cooking. They know what they like and if nothing else I would like to think that they now will be imbued with a passion for food and cooking and socialising over a meal. My daughter,17, is currently a mad keen baker, producing marvellous cakes, and my 15 year old son makes some mean dishes, in particular a great green Thai curry. Watching them cook gives me enormous satisfaction. Maybe it’s a primeval survival thing.
Eating with friends and family is just such a rewarding experience. A good meal, no matter how grand or simple is better shared.
Tables really are the centre of the universe!