An Inconvenient Meal

Heal the planet, but don’t be late for dinner.
Laurie David is best known for producing An Inconvenient Truth, the Academy Award-winning film that raised international public awareness of climate change, attracted millions of dollars to environmental causes, and is included in science curricula in schools around the world. After tackling a subject that is no less than the future of the planet, she has written a book about the family dinner hour.

Family dinner time is about much more than the warm and fuzzies of bonding over food.
In fact the reality can bear little resemblance to the cultural ideal of mom, dad, and kids sharing the events of the day over meaty roasts and noodle casseroles. There is probably more texting to outsiders than sharing with family. And a weekday roast? In your dreams.

Yet for all that, there is something about a shared meal that pays huge family dividends. Study after study points to the same thing: regular family dinners lead to healthier kids who are less likely to smoke, drink, abuse prescription or illegal drugs, or develop eating disorders, obesity, or depression. They watch less television, delay sexual activity, and get better grades in school.
Clearly there’s something to this.
Whatever it is, it’s not just about the food
No regression analysis of the family spaghetti dinner can explain these results. There are whole sets of values and rituals that anchor healthy families, and a common mealtime is just one piece. But it seems to be the bellwether.

Just because we eat together does not mean we eat right. Just because we are sitting together doesn’t mean we have anything to say. There’s nothing to guarantee meaningful conversation, much less moments of genuine intimacy, but the ritualized access of the family dinner at least makes it possible.

Unlike her last project, Laurie David’s book, The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time, doesn’t have Al Gore’s narration. It does have child-care experts, writers, artists, and chefs sharing their personal dinnertime rituals. Participants include Maya Angelou, Jamie Oliver, Mario Batali, Alice Waters, Arianna Huffington, Nora Ephron,  Judge Judy, Michael Pollan, and Sheryl Crow.

The differences between families that eat together frequently (five or more family dinners per week) and infrequently (fewer than three times per week) are striking. The definitive studies have been conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Read the full report: The Importance of Family Dinners VI.


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One Response to An Inconvenient Meal

  1. Lora says:

    Wow. This is super interesting but it makes so much sense.

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Is it appropriate conversation for the dinner table? Then it should be fine.

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