Changes At The Dinner Table

Sitting around the table with my in-laws this week, we struck up an interesting conversation. The topic of the conversation was for the benefit of my children, particularly the youngest son. It started like this:

" Poppy, when you were a kid, what did you do if your mum was cooking tea and it was still twenty minutes from being ready and you were staaaarving?"

"nothing.... you just had to wait" he replied.

"So, you didn't go and get a few biscuits out of the cupboard or eat an apple or grab a small packet of chips ?" We asked as youngest son's eyes began to get wider.

Pop told us all about the ways things were. You always ate everything on your plate because that was it! If the meal was cooking.... you waited. It was as simple as that. The meals were simple but adequate. They ate the same things all the time, there was no need for anything gourmet or new.

When I think about the 'old way' of eating there are a couple of things that always come to mind. Firstly, how the food was supposedly 'bad for you', - all that butter, bacon and dripping and yet only a very small proportion of the population was overweight. Secondly, the rhythm of eating - breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and supper. It sure seems to be a lot of eating!

What strikes me about the way we eat today is that we are NEVER hungry. I see mothers with prams pull out all sorts of weird and wonderful things - it seems that kids can't go anywhere without having an emergency box of barbecue shapes in their backpacks or a six pack of juice poppers because the label says they are good for us.

Is it my imagination or are we just grazing all day long ? Is food too readily available for us ? Has food become a pacifier to young children and is it to comfort rather than to nourish ?

It always seems strange to me that people ate traditional ways for such a long period of time, yet since food companies have been telling us how to eat more 'healthy' we are the unhealthiest we have ever been! Sure, we may be living longer, but we pop a lot of pills and have lots of replacement surgery in order to carry on.

Ockham's Razor ( a radio programme on ABC) featured a programme called Fructose recently. It was an extract from the book Sweet Poison by David Gillespie. You can find it here.

I was particularly interested in the way he looked back at how food intake and health changed in a relatively short period of time.

It was not that long ago that there were no gym memberships, no diet magazines and no meal replacement programmes. I think you will enjoy the glance backwards.

As far as our family goes, I want to talk more to my kids about the ways things were. I want to be more rhythmic in our eating patterns and stop for meals and morning/afternoon tea and enjoy the ritual of those events as well as the food intake. I may even bring back dessert! - home made of course!!!


Jenny said...

I do so agree and this is the approach we have tried to take in our household. I'm happy to say that now that my oldest has left home and living in student digs with three other students they eat a homecooked meal almost every evening, and they sit at the table. As well as being cheaper than eating out, as they all have different timetables, sharing an evening meal seems to be a good way for them to catch up.

You might enjoy reading Mary Moody's cookbook, The Long Table. She talks about her childhood food memories as well as during the time when her children were all living at home and so on. It is really interesting and shows I think how far our society has come from treating meals as an essential and enjoyable part of family life to what seems to be a constant for refuelling and unsatisfactory mealtimes.

I also found this "diet" on an homage to the 70s retro site : blah.

simplelife said...

This is a great post, I too agree with you. Times have changed so much and I'm not sure it's for the better at all.

I enjoyed the link that Jenny posted too.

cheers Kate

Ladybird World Mother said...

Lovely post and has got me thinking. We eat really well here at home and the children all help with the making and the clearing up. BUT we do graze as well. It hadnt occured to me that we need to be hungry. It seems that people are scared of it? You are right, food is like a pacifier...
thanks hugely. I love posts like this. Life changing! x

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you on this topic. I recall as children in the 1950's we weren't allowed to eat between meals. Of course by meal time we were starving and ate everything put in front of us including home made puddings.
I have never been overweight.
I also heard the program on Ockham's Razor and found it interesting and thought provoking.


xo.sorcha.ox said...

Growing up I remember my grandparents always making sure we had breakfast at first rising, followed by morning tea at around 10.30am, lunch just after noon, afternoon tea around 3.30pm and then dinner on the table at 6. Followed by dessert. Before bed we'd have a warm malt drink and a small snack. We did not have fast foods or takeaway and everything was homemade, but we never over-ate and were the healthiest we'd ever been. My grandparents, to this day, still follow this daily routine. I try to keep something similar in my own life, but minus all the sweet treats - I'm not as active now as I was when I was a kid! :)

Cheryl said...

Funnily enough I too have recently realised the same thing, both children and adults are snacking too much. The old saying hunger is the best appetite is full of wisdom and truth. I've recently cut back on afternoon tea, and suddenly the children are eating better at tea time. I've had to make dinner time earlier, and put up with a bit of whining, but it is worth it when they eat a healthy meal that you have prepared. It makes the effort even more worth it!

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