Eating together at home as a family. It’s important to a lot of us. A tradition. Saying no to having meals together at home, especially dinner, is usually hard.
Family dinners are still quite the norm in Australia. According to a survey in 2012, 77% of Australian families eat dinner together at home five or six times a week, albeit a proportion of this in front of the TV. There’s certainly something significant about eating with family at the dining table. It’s more than just a habit.
When we eat at home with the family, we catch up with one another, spend time together. We’ll chat, ask each other how our day went and what we’ve got planned tomorrow.
And so when we eat together, we bond with one another. Chatting over regular dinners at home, we learn to get along and speak up more around those closest to us.
Sometimes we eat at home because it’s the logical thing to do. It tends to be a lot cheaper and healthier eating at home than eating out. Eating at home with family, we’re often reminded of better eating habits and table manners too.
Meals outside don’t come cheap in Melbourne. A tasty burger with fries or a flavoursome bowl of stir-fried wanton noodles typically costs $10 or more here – certainly not friendly to the wallet with respect to how much the average Australian like me earns on average per year.
A lot of us don’t just eat with family at home. We eat with family outside as well – and some of us will rather eat with that annoying family member than eat alone. After all, dining alone is often shunned and seen as anti-social (but eating solo has its perks too). Eating out with family or even friends, we might take photos of new dishes we’ve tasted and put them on Facebook. Eating together then, is a pride and status affair of sorts.
Depending on the occasion, at times eating with family gets on our nerves. Eating at Asian reunion dinners or big weddings can be boisterous, exhausting events. The last extended family dinner I went to back in Malaysia was exactly that. Relatives shouting to one another across the round table, telling each other what’s happening in their lives. Voices rising as more and more fine red wines were poured. Family heaping foods on my plate despite my protests in broken Cantonese. When the dinner was over, my stomach was uncomfortably bloated and my head throbbed.
In Asian cultures, it’s respectful to wait for everyone to be seated before helping ourselves to food. It’s respectful to wait if someone’s dish that they ordered hasn’t come out of the kitchen yet. So we might have to put up with partially cold food when eating with family.
Sometimes you aren’t close with family yet everyone makes the effort to have a meal at the dining table. Presence speaks a thousand words.
Eating together at home, we feel like we’re a part of something: everyone has a seat at the table. We feel wanted, like we have a place to go back to. Eating together, we’re more than just obligated to eat. We’re appreciative.
We’re silently thankful for what we have. Health. Food. Family.
Do you like eating with your family or housemates at home?