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Dining Tables at Home


Mayhaw Man
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This topic has brought up a question that may have been addressed here before, but if it has a search did not turn it up (of course, I may not have been looking in the right part of cyberspace).

My question is this- Do you and your family (whatever group that you consider to be your family counts) sit down to dinner, at a common table, on a regular basis?

If so, what is the situation? Is there a TV in the room or not. Does your family rush through meals or is there a reasonable conversation and a discussion of recent family events? Is the table set or does everybody serve themselves and sit down?

If you do, why do you feel that is important? If not, why not?

You get the picture. Inquiring minds want to now what the scene is inside your households.

Don't make me plant a camera :angry: . I will if I have to. :laugh:

Here is how it works in the Mayhaw Household.

I have two boys and they are both relatively active in outside school stuff, music, sports, etc. and we often don't all arrive at home until 6 or 7. Happily, my working day ends about 3 o'clock so I can go home and get some kind of meal going. I do ninety percent of the meal preperation (my wife is a great cook, but she is messy and slow and prefers to cook grand and complicated meals for special occasions and workaday prep bores her to tears-so she likes this arrangement) and generally have things pretty well done by the time everybody hits the back steps. Most nights we all manage to sit down together for 30 minutes to eat. Sometimes I set the table, sometimes not. But we do generally manage to get there at one time.

We have a large sunroom off the kitchen that has a very large dining room table (recycled mahogany from Indonesia, it weighs a ton, but I like it) and that is where we eat. There is a TV at the other end of the room, but I can count on one hand the number of times we had it on during dinner.

The result of this has been (completely by accident and a lack of tolerance for bad manners by me) that my children know how to eat without annoying everybody around them and understand polite table talk (this is not to say that they won't break decorum with a good fart joke, but most of the time they are pretty good :raz: ). I look forward to this little bit of time with them, as with all of the rediculous loads of homework schools are handing out these days it is often the only time all day I get to talk to them).

I guess it is important to me primarily for two main reason-I think that table manners and the ability to deal appropriatly with dining is very important and I also like the whole "family deal" that occurs when we eat together.

O.K. That's what we do. How about you?

Edited to say that there is almost always music in the background-Lucinda into Charlie Parker into Miles (the trumpet player, not my son, although my son is named after him) into Louis Jordan into Hank W. (Sr., not that buffoon Jr.) into classical into NPR into James Booker into the Chieftans into ad infinitum

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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We have two tables that we sit down at: one in the kitchen and one in the dining room. If it's just us, we eat in the kitchen. If we have friends over for dinner or if there is some sort of "project" taking place in the kitchen, we eat at the dining room table.

There is only one television in my house and, if someone is watching it, it is turned off before dinner.

We eat out at least once a week; other than those times, every night is a sit-down dinner with all family members present.

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Just re-read MM's note and I'll add this: the Spawn has been going to restaurants since she was an infant. She does not run around in a restaurant or yell out anything. If you leave the table at home, you are finished your dinner...there is no up and run around and then sit down and have another bite before you get up and run around some more.

When she was younger, we'd always get seated with the other tables with children whenever we went out for dinner. It drove me crazy because the other children were usually bloody heathens.

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We eat at the table every meal, no tv. The children have to sit at the table until we have all finished or until they are excused. If my partner is working late or we are eating out, or have people to dinner, the children eat by themselves, again at table, with the older children in charge of the younger ones, and responsible for clearing the table. Weekend lunches are always all together, either at the table or we all eat out. It works really well for us but the kids think that they are deprived - "At Marie's house you can eat in the front of the tv with your plate on your lap" etc etc.

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Your children may feel they're deprived, but they understand that different people have different rules, and the ability to adapt to different expectations in different contexts is one of the more important things children have to learn.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Our household is only two (supposed) adults. Dinners at home are 99.9% together at the dining table, no TV, but almost always radio (music, though, not talk). The remaining 0.1% is a combination of together at the kitchen table when there is just too much work stuff on the dining table (which = our conference table); together at the dining table with the TV on, for the rare playoff game or series final; or together on the couch facing the TV, eating off the coffee table (same reason).

I will admit that when we have family over with small children, we do not insist that they stay seated at the table for the whole meal. After all, that could be 3 hours, and even I have trouble sitting that long. Besides, they're not OUR kids (we have none). Anyway, I think meals at someone's home -- especially close family -- can be a little looser than those in public. (These same kids can and do behave well in restaurants, except for asking for a taste of my lentil soup and proceeding to eat almost the whole bowl. :angry::biggrin:)

Growing up (1950s), I and my sister sat with our parents (or just mother, when daddy worked a second job) in our dinette. The TV was in the living room, so we could not watch it while eating. We did, however, listen to the new on the radio. We did not leave the table before the end of the meal. Period.

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My situation is quite different. There's my husband and there's me. He loves to eat and I love to cook. He's a musician and I'm in the food buiness and we both have very strange days.

Saturday and Sunday I cook. And cook and cook and cook. For the entire week.

This way - he's less prone to calling me during the week to ask "What've we got to eat?" I try to refrain from telling him to open the fridge door, bend at the waist and face south. If it's in his face he's less bewildered.

I also try to keep everything somewhat portion controlled - which only means he re-heats the contents of two tupperwares instead of one.

Week nights - it's the living room. The couches are covered with blankets, of course. (Occassionally the tv gods re-locate his mouth and spillage occurs.)

No television for our meals on weekends - we eat at the table. The problem is that the only two meals we get to enjoy together take hours of prep and are actually consumed in twenty minutes. We are both trying to make an effort to slow down.

I'm trying to keep it like it was when I was growing up. Attendance was mandatory at the dinner table and consumption of every course was required by my parents because that's what it was like when they were kids.

Kudos to you for your efforts. They'll appreciate it when they get older.

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Your children may feel they're deprived, but they understand that different people have different rules, and the ability to adapt to different expectations in different contexts is one of the more important things children have to learn.

If your children aren't complaining you aren't being strict enough.

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My son and I eat dinner together every night, unless one of us is working. On occasion, we will take our plates to the living room to watch something on TV, but that is pretty unusual.

When my boys were little, they used to beg for TV dinners--it was a very special occasion for them to get to eat dinner and watch TV.

When I was little, there was one night a year when dinner was in front of the TV--when the Wizard of Oz was on.

sparrowgrass
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Not counting those infrequent meals on visits home from college, with or without a group of friends, it's been a good dozen years since it's been more than Mrs. B. and I at the table. When we were three, dinner was together at the table without TV. Of course there were exceptions and times someone was missing, an adult at some meeting or daughter at a sleepover. It was always a time for conversation and communication as well as good food. Good food can be simple food. Stews, pasta, even burgers are fine and salads and sandwiches were probably well represented.

Whether it's because we no longer felt the need to set a good example or if the conversation deteriorated when our daughter finally flew the coop, there's been a noticeable decline in our standards. The TV is sometimes playing in the background and dinners are more often an unstructured raid of the refrigerator than we'd ever allow in the old days. I don't know that we eat out any more often. When our daughter was small, we ate out a lot at a local family owned Italian restaurant and probably weekly in Chinatown at a number of inexpensive Chinese restaurants.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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This way - he's less prone to calling me during the week to ask "What've we got to eat?" I try to refrain from telling him to open the fridge door, bend at the waist and face south.

Thank you for this. I cannot wait to use this stolen line on the bottomless pit that is my teenager (he is 14, 6'2" and weighs about a pound and a half. I have no idea where the food goes :wacko: )

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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We've always eaten "meals" at the kitchen table, as the would-be dining room is not set up to be eaten in. When one person eats alone, anything goes, but two eating at the same time is the definition of a meal around these parts.

And the TV is at the other end of the house. Since we don't have cable, it's only good for viewing tapes, so we might have the radio on, especially during breakfast, but rarely otherwise.

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we eat in front of the TV most times. unless it's a dinner that took a lot of effort, and seems to require a more proper setting, like an actual table.

i can tell already that this thread is going to be, umm, "interesting." i just hope everyone remembers that there is no "right" and "wrong".

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i just hope everyone remembers that there is no "right" and "wrong".

Exactly.

It is, however, interesting to see what people do. Things that are a big deal to some are not very important at all to others. I just like to see what goes into whatever decisions are made and why people make them.

So far it has been pretty interesting.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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My husband, my two small children and I eat at our dining table each night. We start our meal in silence and say grace together aloud, then dim the lights and light candles. We really like the candle thing- it makes our dinners seem special. We also use cloth napkins and try to use a tablecloth on weekends. No TV (although we don't own one) and no music. The kids stay seated until the adults are finished and then we remind them that they must ask to be excused. Our children are ages one and two years old.

As far as there being no "right" or "wrong" I respectfully disagree. The communal meal is an institution as old as humanity and I believe that there are ways that are better and worse to partake. I think TV draws those eating into separate, not communal experiences. When I think of the importance of holy communion to Christians, or of the Sabbath meal to Jews (I'm sure there are lots of similar examples from other traditions) I am reminded of how very central eating and its company and traditions are to our spirits. TV deprives those eating of the psychological, social, and spiritual benefits derived from a meal eaten together.

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Just the two of us here. We eat about 80% of our dinners in our dining room; the rest are either outside on the patio table or in the breakfast nook. Even if it's simple food-or take out-I like to make a nice place setting. On rare occasions we eat in front of the TV while watching a movie, otherwise the TV is off.

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Interesting idea--this link between the decline in Dining Room/Table use and the misbehavior alluded to in the babies in restaurants thread.

tommy, of course, is his own child, so eating at the TV should be just fine. :wink:

I kind of disagree with the statement about no wrong and right, although it's certainly not our job to sit and judge each other. If we are talking about the theoretical idea that there is a link between training kids in manners at a dining room table and eating behavior of those children in general, then clearly there is a right thing to do--own and use a dining room table. "Right" in the sense that one leads to the other, and assuming that this is a priority to a parent it's the proper procedure to get kids "trained" in that way--not "right" in the sense that someone must do this to be a good person or good parent.

If it comes down to a personal choice of using one or not when those things don't apply... the idea of imposing a judgement is certainly silly. Heck, I don't even own a dining room table (my apartment is too small), but then again I don't have kids.

And even in the case when kids are involved we certainly aren't talking about an all or nothing proposal. My parents, who did a lot of things I still scratch my head at, did one thing undisputably right. We ate dinner in the dining room at least once every week (usually twice), in the kitchen most other meals, and only in front of the TV if it was a late dinner or something special was on. Even still, I can't hold a fork right though, so in some ways they were very relaxed. :smile:

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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I'm not going to talk in this thread about the way I ate while growing up, because I already talked about it in the How we ate growing up thread, and I encourage anyone participating in this thread who hasn't already looked at that one to check out. This thread is not a duplication of that thread, but that thread is relevant to this one.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'm not going to talk in this thread about the way I ate while growing up, because I already talked about it in the How we ate growing up thread, and I encourage anyone participating in this thread who hasn't already looked at that one to check out. This thread is not a duplication of that thread, but that thread is relevant to this one.

I think the difference is that here we are specifically linking the idea of dinner table manners to the "fate" of children's eating habits going forward, as well as polling who does and does not currently use dinner tables. This topic is kind of a bridge between the "babies" topic and the one you linked to, and I suggest that if people want to dwell on either extreme (childhood experiences or restaurant decorum) they go to those suggested threads. Otherwise, here's the place to be. :raz:

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Our country style kitchen is the main entertaining room in the home, so we work with that. Candles glowing on the round oak pedestal table and throughout the kitchen area everynight, all year long. Table is always covered with seasonal linens.

TV is located in the front sitting room, which is viewable from the table, it's usually on during dinner, which occurs at about 9pm during the week, a little later on Saturday nights if we eat home.

Friday and Saturday nights usually have some cd's or MP3's playing.

Cooking is usually a team effort with the wife and I, so we are pretty much together thoughout the evening. This is our 6 month winter mode.

Summer mode is out on the rear porch, or on the better evening's next to the pool sitting at the bistro table. Meals at that point are just about all cooked in the open air outside, and no tv, but usually music.

woodburner

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I think the difference is that here we are specifically linking the idea of dinner table manners to the "fate" of children's eating habits going forward, as well as polling who does and does not currently use dinner tables. This topic is kind of a bridge between the "babies" topic and the one you linked to, and I suggest that if people want to dwell on either extreme (childhood experiences or restaurant decorum) they go to those suggested threads. Otherwise, here's the place to be. :raz:

Agreed, but I also think that the "How we ate growing up" thread is fun.

I really can't say anything much about how I eat nowadays because I'm a single man living by myself. If I eat at the computer, so what?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'm 47 (for at least a few more weeks) and until I was close to adulthoood I was unaware that people ever ate with the TV on in the same room (or even an adjacent room for that matter). In my family and those of my friends I don't recall ever seeing a TV on at meal time.

I was a non-parent for the majority of my daughter's upbringing but she ate lunch dinner every Sunday with me alone or also in the company of my parents. Routines did not change and to this day (she is now 22) when the two of us eat together at my house or apartment, it's a sit-down meal with conversation.

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