I’ve been trying for days to figure out a way to write about this topic without sounding like a scold. Maybe the key is to ask you all (well, the three or four of you left after my various lapses in blogging) — what is it with dinner in America these days? Why is it so hard? Estimates vary, but it now seems that something like 30-50% of American families are not eating dinner together on any given night.
I don’t get it. I’m not talking about pulling off some gourmet multi-course meal. I’m just talking about dinner — a meal in which everyone eats the same thing, at the same time, in the same room. Even my parents, who admittedly didn’t have it together much of the time when we were growing up, managed dinner. Pot roast, spaghetti with red sauce, a roasted chicken, or that pork chop thing my Dad used to make with the tomatoes and the sour cream that my brother and I hated (sorry Dad). We ate out once in a while, but not very often, and I think I can count on one hand the times we ordered out, even for pizza. When we were little, it’s true, my mother was fond of the TV dinner, and when we lived with my Dad in high school we ate dinner in front of the TV a couple of nights a week. But we always ate together, even if we had to wait for Dad to get home from a late meeting, or if Patrick or I had an after school activity. It would never have occurred to us to eat alone, or in stages.
And it’s been one of the nicest things about dating someone again — I have someone not only to eat dinner with, but to check in with sometime during the day to see what the plan is for dinner. Dinner exists again and not just as another thing to get through by myself. Now it’s true, we both like to cook, and we’re both interested in food, but it’s not as if just because one is interested in cooking, one has to cook elaborately. I cut my teeth on Laurie Colwin’s books, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking, for example, memoir/cookbooks that follow Colwin’s interest not in fancy restaurant cooking but in the sometimes-oddball things people cook at home, and about the ways we take care of one another by cooking.
So, gentle readers, fill me in — just what is it about dinner that has us all so flummoxed? What’s the big deal?