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Surprising Science

Why Family Dinners Are Essential to Civilization

Only recently did Michael Pollan, the country’s most popular food writer, become comfortable in the kitchen. Now he has written a new book about the importance of cooking and family eating.

What’s the Latest Development?

Food has become a secondary activity in American life, says Michael Pollan, perhaps the country’s most popular food writer. The amount of time we dedicate to eating each day, ironically, has steadily fallen. “The family meal, or ‘primary eating’, is in decline—down to 67 minutes a day, Pollan says. Secondary eating (while you’re doing other things) now takes 78 minutes per person per day. Astoundingly, 20% of food intake in America is now eaten in the car, says Pollan. It’s unlikely to be nutritious. ‘I’m sure that some people are sitting in there eating organic baby carrots, but on balance what they’re eating is likely to be crap.'”

What’s the Big Idea?

Only recently did Pollan become comfortable in the kitchen. But now that he better understands what it means to cook your own meals, he has become a strong advocate for family dinners. “It’s where we teach our children the manners they need to get along in society. We teach them how to share. To take turns. To argue without fighting and insulting other people. They learn the art of adult conversation. The family meal is the nursery of democracy.” In Pollan’s view, the umbrella of advice we give to children about driving, alcohol, drugs, and sex, should be extended to included discussion about food preparation. 

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Read it at the Guardian


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