Why we should pull up a chair

Most of us have childhood memories centred around dining tables. Some of mine, I have to admit, are of countless hours waiting for my sister to eat her vegetables. However,  most are of happy family celebrations. We also had different sized chairs, symbolising the family pecking order. Dining tables carry sadness too; think of places not set for children who have left home or for loved ones we have lost. However, in the scheme of things they are actually symbolic. However in some households and with the trend for smaller properties there just isn’t enough space or time to warrant such a luxury.

eating at dining tables

Whatever you eat nearly always tastes better when you make the effort to eat together at dining tables

Dining tables have traditionally been the meeting place

This is where we share news and exchange the mundane but comforting. This is where we have the  ‘what did you do today’? conversations. The experts explain how good it is for us to eat around the table. Not unsurprisingly perhaps, the chatter teaches social skills to children and it’s where we model healthy attitudes to eating.  Research suggests eating around the dinner table is associated with better mental health in young people, better grades and better food choices.  Eating around the table is seen as wholesome providing the structure and warmth seen as the hallmarks of good parenting. This article is also an interesting take on why eating from dining tables makes a difference.

These days however many of us are too busy to eat together

Perhaps working irregular hours or several jobs is too stressful to get everyone round the table at the same time.  We have breakfast on the go with the somewhat unappetising ‘breakfast biscuit’. Sometimes we desktop dine in the office and many of us, myself included sometimes, will feed kids in front of the TV whilst getting ready to go back out again. Surveys find around one in three children in the UK eat their dinner in front of the telly.  Despite these figures, there are however some signs pointing in the opposite direction. Theses signs are pointing towards more social eating.

eating together

stories, ideas and opinions are shared at dining tables

Doncaster has its own Slow movement encouraging  us to slow down

Perhaps we should all adopt a more mindful approach centred around wellbeing and living lightly on the earth.  Maybe eating around dining tables might just help.There’s also the fantastic Super Kitchen model which is popping up around the Midlands. This is something I think GFD friends should take a look at. Super Kitchen is a giant feast bringing together communities in social dining helping to combat loneliness and using surplus food to make affordable meals.   I like this model. it seems at its heart to recognise the many paths our lives take but that we can all benefit from pulling up a chair and sharing a meal with neighbours.

Is it worth bringing back dining tables?

Finally, what makes me smile is just how much my kids love chatting and telling stories when they sit round the table. I have to admit I’ve often had to bargain with them to get them there.  Recently I bought home fortune cookies (from Fourleaf Oriental Foods in Kings Arcade, well worth a visit) which led to interesting conversations. We talked about Chinatowns around the world, the Chinese alphabet and what we’d like our fortunes to be.   I feel very fortunate to have my childhood memories from around the table (minus the hours lost to my sister’s hatred of veg).  Both the memories and fortunes of my kids will be shaped by making that little extra effort to pull up a chair.  To conclude, perhaps it’s worth reinstating dining tables and regular times to meet, eat and talk. What do you think?

By Jennefer Holmes was Head of Service, Skills and Enterprise, Doncaster MBC

You can find out more about Good Food Doncaster here.

If you have a food story or your own dining table tales do contact us and share them. We’d love to publish your opinion about dining tables and the place of ‘family meals’ in today’s busy life.

We welcome this comment from Samantha Largent

I love your recent blog on the dining table.  When I moved to Doncaster two and half years ago, married my husband and bought a house, the thing we loved the most was the novelty of having a dining room and table.  We still eat at it every night, discuss our meal, and listen to some music, and generally put the worlds to rights!  It’s even better when my Dad flies over for a weekend visit as he is alone at home (in N.I.) so it gives him family purpose again.  We even bought a candelabra  and light it every night in winter. I try to imitate a restaurant feel as much as I can.  I think the social aspect of dining is really important.. it’s something we look forward to at the end of every working day, oh.. and my absolute rule of thumb is… no mobiles at the dinner table!!  (unless the meal I have made is  super impressive and is worth the snapchat!!)