If we’re honest, most of us are foodies, but we don’t think of ourselves that way. The online Free Dictionary defines a foodie as, “One who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet. Also called foodist.” There might be a slight disconnect here, because when you throw in the word, “refined” that probably disqualifies a lot of us who like to woof down a greasy burger and fries occasionally. Although Merriam-Webster’s definition of foodie is “a person who enjoys and cares about food very much.” There you go, back in the group.
Despite all this talk about doing food with flair, perfect Pinterest dishes, and cooking shows like syndicated Food Network celebrity Rachael Ray’s, it appears most Americans aren’t doing a great job when it comes to doing dinner right. According to best-selling author, Dr. Leonard Sweet, our culture is in desperate need of remembering how to share a meal. “We consume fast food in front of our smartphones, never facing each other, barely acknowledging the existence of one another,” this quote is from the back cover of Sweet’s recent book, From Tablet to Table. “The majority of US families report eating a single meal together less than five days a week. And even then our ‘dinners together’ are mostly in front of the TV,” writes the author of more than sixty books. Apparently, my hubby and I aren’t the only ones who are looking forward to supper watching a new season of The Voice or Downton Abbey.
After all, with local pools closing for the season, along with experiencing a few unseasonably cool days, discerning Midwesterners can sense that winter is just around the corner. When the frigid temperatures and snow keep us indoors, summer barbeques and dinner on the patio will become a distant memory. That’s when many individuals hunker down in their homes on icy evenings, but it wasn’t always this way.
Just look at the recent feature, “Bairs Share Secrets of Long Love,” by Melody Vallieu, TDN editor. The story documents the 70 year marriage of Casstown residents, Frank and Betty Bair who were part of the annual Miami County Fair’s Golden Couple Anniversary photo. “They got to know each other during the long Ohio winters where families would take turns hosting evenings of food and games,” writes Vallieu.
If it wasn’t for sharing a meal and conversation during those bitter cold nights, perhaps, the Bairs might never have fallen in love. That’s the point, as a society we used to not only break bread, but we also spent time talking about the things that mattered to us at the dinner table. It was even more entertaining, when we were joined by a few interesting guests.
In today’s society, we don’t always take time to sit down to share a meal either. Instead we grab a sandwich on the run. Sweet’s book reports that, “We eat one in every five meals in our car.” How many busy football and soccer parents out there can attest to the fact that sharing a bag of fast food in the minivan is a way of life? Even if we are seated at a table, how possible is it to have a significant discussion with another human being with our cell phones ringing and texts beeping? That’s why at the Sweet family table, technology isn’t allowed.
Still, not all parents are willing to make suppertime a no technology zone for themselves. A 2014 Psychology Today article by Anne K. Fishel Ph.D. explains, “According to our Digital Family survey responses of over 300 parents, only 18% of them allow their children to use technology at the dinner table, while almost twice that number of parents believe that [it] is OK for them to use their phones and screens at the table.” As a nation, we seem deeply concerned about issues like obesity and food insecurity. But have we considered how our new way of eating meals is affecting our kids? Sweet cites information compiled by sociologist Cody C. Delistraty for Atlantic Monthly, “The #1 factor for parents raising kids who are drug-free, healthy, intelligent, kind human beings? Frequent family dinners….The #1 predictor of future academic success for elementary-age children? Frequent family dinners…” etc. From Tablet to Table is also a deeply spiritual book that only church futurist Sweet could write. The consummate theologian always points us back to relationship whether it is relationship with others, or ultimately our relationship with a God who wants us to dine at His table.
To improve our culture, maybe we could institute a guideline like the unwritten Code of the West found on www.legendsofamerica.com. It reads, “Remove your guns before sitting at the dining table,” updating it to say, “Remove your technology before sitting at the dining table.” If you don’t, someone might call the sheriff!
Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy and Ohio Associated Press award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Her Website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com.