Did The Microwave Ruin Family Dinners?


family dinner

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous sent along the following and gave me permission to publish without attribution. It reminded me of Jiffy Pop. Remember shaking those foil contraptions over the stove? Fun times.

Anyway, just a little food for thought. (No pun intended.)

The microwave did it. In today’s world it’s all about convenience, cost and self. There is little hardship for most during our daily routines and we go about our business as time passes and some traditions change and fade; all pretty much normal for societies around the world.

Here in the U.S. as like many other places we have a continuous cultural war that has spanned the better part of what some would argue fifty years or more concerning issues ranging from red light cameras to sexual preference to the latest, trendy addition to the hip-hop lexicon. Sometimes driven by technology but mostly ideology, the latter tries to insure you have only one move on the chessboard of choices. What’s acceptable becomes unacceptable and vice versa until a balance is struck.

If we look around today using the current crop of so called “leaders” as an example, we find confusion to say the least. No matter whether it’s in sports, public service, corporations, theatre, whatever, we have an expectation of their conduct and actions in the roles these people populate that continuously frustrates, disappoints, shocks and even angers us at times.

It’s undeniable that we have an obvious absence of good character that was normally taught in the past mostly by parents, teachers and clergy and expected in you to carry forth as an American as you fulfilled your role and conducted yourself in our society and in others. Unlike today, it was a sort of a global meme that America was a force for “good” and its people were ambassadors of it. The recent scandals from every direction indicate to the world we’re acutely riddled with corruption as a Country as even our “leaders” are unable or unwilling to abide by law, use good judgment or even maintain the Golden Rule.

From my youth I remember family discussions, something that isn’t as widespread in today’s American culture. For me it happened daily, usually at the dinner table unless there was something major. We all gathered at the normal dinner time to eat a hot meal knowing that if you didn’t show then, your food was cold leftovers that you had to take the time to warm in a pan over a stove or eat it cold because the nearly instant heating by microwave was nonexistent to almost all homes; talking was a convenient spinoff usually lasting for a time after eating, all of us gathered sitting there conversing. Parents checking in with us kids and our day, activities, events that were good or bad and then stating their expectations and opinions of such. Even if I ate at a friend’s house it was pretty much the same. We listened, sometimes we disagreed and talked more but we pretty much did what we were told and expected of us. We gained respect and learned and if that didn’t cover it we had the fear of our parents’ expression of disappointment as a motivator; not physically for the most part but the loss of trust from someone that loves you unconditionally is powerful.

Barring something calamitous, American family discussions are now somewhat of a sparse event. With the advent of fast food, convenience stores and yes, the aforementioned microwave oven we have very few reasons to gather and converse in the presence of each other. Even at holiday family gatherings, you add into the mix the distraction and digital introspection of smart phones so even when people sit next to each other I’ve noticed they’re mostly in their own world and couldn’t be mentally farther from the physical reality, unable to disconnect and relinquish the time; rather rude in my opinion.

Interpersonal social skills are declining to a point now where our once mostly civil society is now filled with the normality of crass incivilities, inconsideration and violence. Even the difference of opinion is falsely interpreted to encroach and offend to the point of being a defined threat. And it’s finally happened that good manners are now out of style.

To a great extent, we make our own world and somehow we need to get back on track as a nation of “good” and for a nation to be good it must be filled with good people. How we do that is the question that I haven’t figured out an answer for yet, but for now I’m pointing the finger of blame at the microwave oven.

Just for the record, we here in the LC household make it a point to eat dinner together every evening. Some days it’s just hot dogs and salad because we have to run out the door at 5:15 to a baseball game, but we think it’s important to sit down together and eat and talk every day.

This coming from a woman who used to revel in her freedom to have a bowl of cereal for dinner. Once you have kids everything changes. But I still make breakfast for dinner for the boys on occasion, and they love it.