Here's our kitchen. (Okay, full disclosure. I did a wee bit of staging here. As in moving the huge pile of unread newspapers out of the sight line. And moving the stool that lets our cats jump up easily to the cat food bowl. So un-glam, these real life things..)
And here is our dining room, which seats ten in a pinch. Fab for company and holiday dinners and Sunday quilting afternoons and doing puzzles and sorting papers... But, we rattle around in there a bit, and as much as I love our Stickley-esque furniture, the chairs are too big to be really comfortable for short me. So kitchen it is.
This eating dinner thing is not a statement--it's just what we do. The other night, it occurred to me to wonder if we were really weird. So 50s, so Leave it to Beaver. Do other people do this? Growing up, my family actually ate in the dining room most nights. It was a rare treat to get TV tables in the den. (Now, that's a thought. Who has TV tables these days?)
What about you, REDS? Do you and your spouses sit down together for meals, and eschew media temptations?
HALLIE EPHRON: We do sit down at 6:30 every night for a home-cooked meal (or leftovers or pizza or Chinese...) but always sit down, no media, no tablet, no phone, no reading matter. Usually wine. We don't have room for a table in our kitchen so we sit in the dining room and I only have one set of dishes so we eat off the good-enough ones that I got when we got married a loooooong time ago.
I believe in a real family dinner. In my family, we always had a sit-down dinner and my parents expected us to TALK (in my family it was a competition) -- as dysfunctional as my parents were, it was the one thing they did right. I've always made dinner when my kids were little -- my quiet 20 minutes in the kitchen after getting home from work, a glass of wine and an onion to chop and I could be civilized -- and we sat down as a family and *talked*. It teaches kids about table manners and how to have a conversation.
As I'm writing this I'm preparing a chicken roasted in the barbecue over coals and a couscous salad for a late dinner with my daughter and her husband after their two little ones are down for the night.
RHYS BOWEN: When my kids were at home we always ate dinner that I had cooked. Sometimes their friends joined us. These days John and I eat at the table in the kitchen, unless we have guests or family over. One of us cooks, from scratch. Never a pre-packaged meal in our house! Tonight it's pork tenderloin in a garlic mustard sauce. Sometimes we have the TV on, and watch Jeopardy, and sometimes we talk. But we've never owned TV trays and never had a TV in the kitchen or dining room when the kids were small. I love noisy family dinners!
LUCY BURDETTE: This photo is from 1963, our kitchen table from my growing up days. We always always had dinner together, with a German Shepherd or two under the table to accept scraps. When I was single, I usually ate in bed LOL. But once I married John and married into his little kids, we went back to the kitchen table. Dinner at six, and conversation, though I very much doubt we could have kept up with the Ephrons! John and I still eat together at six, say grace, and talk about our days. I hope we never give that time up!
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, we are outliers. We have dinner at--forgive me, about 9. We always have dinner together, it's really a ritual, and although usually we talk, sometimes we watch a movie or something wonderful on TV. I'd say I cook three days a week. (Tonight we are having rack of lamb grilled outside, and green beans, with coconut shrimp appetizers.Yesterday we had cooked out hamburgers and salad.) Other nights we go out, or carry out. Thursdays it's Jonathan's responsibility. I say--don't even ask what I want. Just provide it. It's usually pizza. wonderful.
We eat at the family room table, since the dining room table is covered with book research and administrative stuff. Thats why Im always delighted to have dinner guests, because it forces me to clean it up.
When I was growing up, five kids, we always had dinner together, at a big round table in the dining room. And yes, we HAD to talk, and tell stories, and tell one thing that happened to us during the day. We'd also fight over who got to turn the Lazy Susan in the center.
DEBS: Hank, we eat late, too. Dinner before eight at our house is a shock!
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: We do dinner at the table, no TV. We have a lot of dinner guests coming and going, so there are always new folks and new ideas and fun events to discuss. I think it's important for Kiddo to learn good table manners and also conversational skills. It's nice to come together as a family and laugh and tell jokes. Occasionally, often on Sundays, we'll do takeout and dinner on the couch with a movie. (Tonight, I have to admit, is pizza and the live-action version of Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branaugh—we have a friend over who's going through a bad breakup and she wants a movie and comfort food—but I'm including a picture of our table from the weekend.)
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: We've done it all ways at my house. I grew up with a proper dinner hour, every night at six on the dot, where we all sat down to a home cooked meal. Conversation was expected. You could argue, but only about factual points - I can remember various members of the family getting up to fetch the dictionary or a volume of the encyclopedia (those were the days!)
We had regular sit-down meals with the kids right up until The Boy began high school. He vastly preferred doing his homework on the kitchen table instead of in his room, and so unless we used the dining room table (which is very large and, like Hank's, usually covered with papers, etc.) we were stuck with working around a spread of textbooks, scientific calculators and notebooks at dinnertime. In addition, we now had TWO kids in two different high school doing cross country/track/track and field, as well as being involved in drama, music, etc. We still made homemade meals, but making the dinner itself eat-as-you-go became a lot more workable than getting everyone to sit down.
Things have obviously calmed down a lot since then, so we try to have a sit-down meal in the dining room about once a week. And of course, we have very formal seatings at our big holiday parties: six pieces of silver at each plate, bread dishes, soup bowls and plates and water and wine glasses. And Debs, we always use cloth napkins - they really are cheaper in the long run!
DEBS: Oh, so fun! I love it that everyone eats together. And I'm impressed that we all (mostly) cook. And I love everyone's kitchen/dining rooms!
READERS, what about you? Do you sit down with spouse/partner/family for nightly dinners? And if you live alone, do you make dinner special?