5. At Table

Posted by Carolyn on June 6, 2008 at 10:49 am

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Chapter 5 is about that stage of food’s journey that we can’t help knowing at least something about: eating. We all do it several times a day, so you would have thought we were experts at it, but you would be wrong. Most of the time, we barely think about what we’re putting in our mouths – we are far too busy thinking about something else. We have learnt to treat food as fuel, which is not only doing terrible things to our bodies, but harming the very fabric of our society. Because food in the past was scarce, it was also highly valued, and shared meals were significant social events. Although this undoubtedly had its downsides, such as the use of table manners as a mechanism for social snobbery, the fact that people ate regularly together was also highly beneficial.

Through history, the table has been where people have learnt to share, to socialise, to converse – it is without equal as a place to become culturally attuned and civilised. Yet as more and more of us eat on our own, research suggests that we are losing social skills that previous generations took for granted.

A formal table setting from Emily Post's 'Etiquette In Society', 1922

Another equally important function of the shared meal, which might sound a bit old-fashioned today, is the way in which table manners regulate how and what we eat. In the fight against obesity, shared meals could have a vital role to play, because they involve the most powerful known mechanism for regulating eating habits: social pressure.

2 Responses

  1. adrian carter Says:

    wonderful Carolyn – really enjoyed your company last night and your video. from an historical point of view , do you deal with the social vandalism of the enclosures and the polarisation of the populace during the industrial revolution
    see you at Lime next time ?

  2. closeout oakley sunglasses Says:

    good article,it is useful to me and others to know about this items,please just keep it….

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