Mum’s serving up the tea just as Dad comes home from work, kissing his two well-scrubbed, polite-looking children on the head before the family sits down and enjoys a healthy home-cooked meal together. “Whose house is this?!” we hear you cry. Sadly, life is not an Oxo advert and this kind of scene is becoming increasingly rare.
New research commissioned by the Co-op Food Chronicles and conducted by Opinion Matters has found that family dinners are dying out in the UK, and we think that’s a crying shame.
Some 57 per cent of us no longer have the time to sit down and eat at the dinner table with our families every day, with the average length of a family meal now coming in at just 21 minutes. That sounds like a lot of fast eating and potential indigestion to us. Not to mention very little time to catch up on each other’s news and spend quality time together.
Instead of sitting around the table, 34 per cent admit to eating their dinner on the sofa, with just 18 per cent regularly sitting around their dining table. One-fifth of us don’t even own a dining table anymore, showing just how far down the nation’s priorities eating together has fallen.
And then when we do sit down together, there’s the TV, computers or smartphones distracting us – something Lynda Bellingham most certainly didn’t have to contend with in the Oxo family house. The survey found that 55 per cent of families allow these devices at the dinner table, and this makes us sad. In our busy lives, sitting down to enjoy a meal together is one of the last simple pleasures and we feel very strongly about protecting its place in society.
But so does everyone else, it seems, they’re just not quite doing enough about it. Some 49 per cent of us think that sharing a meal with family at home is one of the best ways to spend quality time together and 47 per cent of us wish we did it more.
While sitting together around the table was named as the most important factor of a family meal, spending time laughing together and catching up were rated as the next most valued. So when we are sitting on the sofa eating off a tray (or trying not to burn our hands/chest/stomachs as we creatively balance our bowls) at least we’re still enjoying each other’s company, and that’s something!
Dr Patrick Alexander of the Social Research Issues Centre commented: “Families continue to recognise the social importance of sharing food and identify eating together as an activity that most brings them happiness and a sense of togetherness.”
So, however you choose to do this, we think that’s something to be applauded. And if there’s yummy, healthy, homemade food involved, even better. You don’t need to go all out with three courses every night though, but we tip our hats to the two per cent of Brits that do – we can only assume some members of the royal family/residents of Downton Abbey took part in the survey too.