Food, Family, and the Factors Influencing the Frequencies and Characteristics of Family Dinners in America

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Title: Food, Family, and the Factors Influencing the Frequencies and Characteristics of Family Dinners in America
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Overing, III, Ronald E.
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2010
Publication Date: 2010


Subjects / Keywords: Family Dinner
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Abstract: This thesis is an investigation into the factors influencing the frequencies of family dinners, which allowed for an examination of contemporary family life in America. Dinner was chosen because it is the most social meal of the day and because of the meal�s potential for being a powerful site of socialization. Historical research was used to explain the context leading to the formation of family dinners, which began as a reaction to the industrial revolution started by the Protestant middle-class during the 1850s. After the history chapter, the frequency of family dinners since the 1970s was found in existing literature, and was compiled with existing information pertaining to what influences the frequency of family dinners. Nine semistructured interviews were conducted in order to gain perspective on contemporary American families. The results suggest that the following factors are positively associated with dinner frequency: desire to maintain the structure of the meal, planning and scheduling dinner in advance, having culinary knowledge or a positive outlook towards preparing food, and having a dedicated stay at home parent.
Statement of Responsibility: by III, Ronald E. Overing
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2010
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Brain, David

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Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
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Classification: local - S.T. 2010 O9
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Permanent Link:

Material Information

Title: Food, Family, and the Factors Influencing the Frequencies and Characteristics of Family Dinners in America
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Overing, III, Ronald E.
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2010
Publication Date: 2010


Subjects / Keywords: Family Dinner
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This thesis is an investigation into the factors influencing the frequencies of family dinners, which allowed for an examination of contemporary family life in America. Dinner was chosen because it is the most social meal of the day and because of the meal�s potential for being a powerful site of socialization. Historical research was used to explain the context leading to the formation of family dinners, which began as a reaction to the industrial revolution started by the Protestant middle-class during the 1850s. After the history chapter, the frequency of family dinners since the 1970s was found in existing literature, and was compiled with existing information pertaining to what influences the frequency of family dinners. Nine semistructured interviews were conducted in order to gain perspective on contemporary American families. The results suggest that the following factors are positively associated with dinner frequency: desire to maintain the structure of the meal, planning and scheduling dinner in advance, having culinary knowledge or a positive outlook towards preparing food, and having a dedicated stay at home parent.
Statement of Responsibility: by III, Ronald E. Overing
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2010
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Brain, David

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2010 O9
System ID: NCFE004301:00001

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FOOD, FAMILY, AND THE FACTORS INFLUENCING THE FREQUENCIES AND CHARACTERISTICS OF FAMILY DINNERS I N AMERICA BY RONALD E. OVERING III A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts in Sociology Under the sponsorship of Dr. David Brain Sarasota, Florida May 2010


1 Table of Contents Page Table of Contents: ii Abstract: iii Chapter I: Introduction 1 Chapter II: Interaction Ritual Chains and the Family Dinner Ritual 8 Chapter III: The History of the Family and Food Systems in America 16 Chapter IV: Case Study 69 Chapter V: Discussion & Conclusion 115 Bibliography: 121


2 FOOD, FAMILY, AND THE FACTORS INFLUENCING THE FREQU ENCIES AND CHARACTERISTICS OF FAMILY DINNERS IN AMERICA Ronald E. Overing III New College of Florida, 2010 ABSTRACT This thesis is an investigation into the factors i nfluencing the frequencies of family dinners, which allowed for an examination of contemporary family life in America. Dinner was chosen because it is the most s ocial meal of the day and because of the meal’s potential for being a powerful site o f socialization. Historical research was used to explain the context leading to the form ation of family dinners, which began as a reaction to the industrial revolution st arted by the Protestant middle-class during the 1850s. After the history chapter, the fr equency of family dinners since the 1970s was found in existing literature, and was com piled with existing information pertaining to what influences the frequency of fami ly dinners. Nine semi-structured interviews were conducted in order to gain perspect ive on contemporary American families. The results suggest that the following fa ctors are positively associated with dinner frequency: desire to maintain the structure of the meal, planning and scheduling dinner in advance, having culinary knowl edge or a positive outlook towards preparing food, and having a dedicated stay at home parent. Professor David Brain Div ision of Social Sciences


3 Chapter I: Introduction Mealtimes provide a unique opportunity for individ uals to gather on a regular basis in order to satisfy a common, biological need : to consume food. While the need for food is based in human biology, cross culturall y, the consumption of food has been an extremely social act. In contemporary Ameri ca, and similarly around the world, individuals are socialized from a very early age to behave in a culturally appropriate manner when engaging with all aspects o f food; from its production or acquisition, to its preparation, consumption and di sposal. During meals, children are taught the differences between edible and inedible, the appropriate ways to prepare food, the order to ingest food, the proper times of day to eat food, and with whom it is proper to eat. Meals constitute situations that are often prominent sites of socialization due to their regularity, inculcating within individuals the symbols and proficiencies providing individuals with the norms necessary to behave in a manner deemed appropriate by other members and groups in s ociety. As such, meals have the ability to reaffirm cultur e, gender norms, class ideologies, and other systems of power by serving a s a node for socialization which occurs multiple times per day. Patricia Crotty did a good job summing up the ways in which biological and social elements of eating can intersect when she wrote that, “the act of swallowing divides nutrition’s ‘two cu ltures’, the post swallowing world of biology, physiology, biochemistry and pathology and the pre-swallowing domain of behavior, culture, society and experience” (Cro tty, 1993: 109). The purpose of this thesis was to conduct an exploratory study examinin g family, dinner, and the factors influencing the characteristics and the frequency o f family dinners. In order to


4 address this topic I drew mainly from the works of sociologists and supplemented this research with various works from anthropologists, s ocial psychologists, historians, and consumer research. By keeping the focus of anal ysis on one situation, family dinners, and tracking the salient factors influenci ng the structure of the dinner situation over time, the ways in which external fac tors affect micro-situations will be highlighted, and the role and function of family di nners be analyzed. The American dinnertime ritual is the most social meal of the day (Sobal & Nelson, 2003). The locus of continued societal emph asis on this meal in particular stems from its communal and familial aspects as opp osed to concerns with just nutritional value. In the context of this thesis, t he term ritual will be used to mean the “mechanism of mutually focused emotion and attentio n producing a momentarily shared reality, which thereby generates solidarity and symbols of group membership.”(Collins 2004: 7)1 The term ’dinner’ specifically means the last meal of the day eaten between the hours of 5pm and 11pm. Di nner begins when two or more family members get together and partake in commensa l activities, and it ends when the family members disperse, or the food has been d isposed of. Family dinners will be conceptualized as interaction rituals (Collins, 2004), which provides the means for analyzing the structure of the family interaction o n the meso-level, which allows for a deeper analysis into the ways that individuals comp rising a family operate within the context of American society. Analyzing the structur e of the interaction is important, because it is the structure of the ritual that gene rates and shapes the specific benefits of the situation, which affect the specific outcome of the ritual (Collins, 2004: pg 6). 1 Randall Collins’s Interaction Ritual Theory is dis cussed in further detail in the appendix.


5 Dinner was chosen for analysis because unlike othe r meals, the occurrence of commensality, or the act of eating with others, is far more of a choice with this meal. Breakfast and lunch are both served in public schoo ls in America. Since many public K-12 schools forbid students from leaving campus, a nd since the length of the school day is on average 8 hours, most students eat lunch at school—not with their families. Lunch tends to be a small meal, eaten during a brie f reprieve from the day’s work. For various reasons, among them subsidy and lack of time to prepare the meal, some students also eat breakfast at school. Furthermore, the emphasis of breakfast tends to be the nutritional content, not its potential for s ocialization (Sobal & Nelson, 2003). Unless special plans are made, breakfast tends to b e eaten alone and tends to be rushed, as people have to begin their commitments i n the public sphere at an early time of the day (Sobal & Nelson, 2003). Unlike lunc h or breakfast, dinner takes place at a time when most family members have no other st ructurally required commitments for a majority of Americans. With speci fic exceptions, the frequency and duration of dinners can be negotiated by famili es far more easily than other meals, rendering dinner together with the family a matter of choice. On the surface, family dinner represents a situati on where families can come together to eat food and talk about their day. Dinn ertime has symbolic importance to Americans because it represents a vision of a cohes ive, highly functional family unit where children are cared for and provided for by th e family in a safe place. It presents an opportunity for families to develop their moral values and their sense of community through regular face-to-face interactions It provides a time for individuals, especially children, to construct a ve rsion of mundane reality as it ‘ought


6 to be’ with the guidance and support of their frien ds or more frequently, their family. As Randall Collins (Collins, 2004: 106) argues, “Mu ndane reality is characterized by the feeling that ‘nothing is out of the ordinary he re.’ This is an uninteresting emotion, from the point of view of the actor… but considerab le work went into producing that feeling of ordinariness.” Analyzing dinner time wil l allow me to interrogate the work which goes into the creation of the regular, or a s table basis from which can be used as a means of orienting the rest of their day-to-da y experiences in other settings. Family Dinner has served as a daily event for many American families, providing them a place to make sense of the world b y providing individuals with a chance to collectively develop and share a set of s hared symbols, which structures the foundation for how people form ideas, communicate g roup membership, and develop a shared moral belief, all of which are crucial com ponents individuals need for successfully negotiating future social interactions (Collins 2004). Randall Collins argues that it is these types of social rituals tha t operate, in the face of a society comprised of stratified and conflicted groups, to c reate and maintain solidarity within groups (Collins, 2004: 41). As noted above, the fam ily dinner has particular meanings relating to the formation of in-group solidarity. T hus, changes to the structure of this ritual can imply a shift in the mechanisms through which family develops such solidarity or may in fact reflect a deeper change i n the meaning of the family. Family dinners in America haven’t always manifeste d in this form though. Residing in peoples collective unconscious are idea listic notions of a nuclear family, composed of a mother, a father, and 2.5 kids that s it down together every night for dinner. This concept of a family meal is just a mod el; a popular ideological


7 construction depicting a belief of how meals ‘ought ’ to be organized and what functions they ought to serve which began in the mi d 19th century (Gillis 1996; Levenstein 2003; Cinotto 2006). This representation of how dinner ought to be, often accompanied by the illusion that this model accurat ely represents dinner as it used to be first began cropping up in the decades following the industrial revolution (Gillis, 1996). Dinner time has since been idealized in such a way that many people associate family dinners to family cohesion (Fulkerson Neumar k-Sztainer, & Story, 2006). Many sources of popular media have treated the freq uency of family dinners like a dip stick for the health and well being of the fami ly unit. A 1997 Gallup poll found that 9 out of 10 respondents believed that it was m ore important than ever to sit down as a family for a meal (Gallup 1997). Since the not ion of family and food has been somewhat erroneously convoluted in popular discours e, many claims have been made arguing that the decline in the frequency of family dinners directly corresponds to the corrosion of the family unit (Beardsworth & Keil, 1 997). A distinction must be made between the ideology of family dinners, and family cohesion, since they aren’t intrinsically connected with one another. While an increased frequency of family dinners have demonstrated positive results in child rearing, including their general disposition, and a myriad of other benefits that wi ll be discussed later, none of these studies have shown that dinner is the only way to e licit these positive results. Just because a ritual declines in frequency doesn’t nece ssarily indicate any symptoms of more serious societal implications. A decline in th e frequency of a ritual could be an


8 indicator of a myriad of things; some of which will be discussed in chapter three of this thesis. As with most rituals, the dinner time ritual will either continue to happen because people gain something from the experience, or the ritual will not continue for very long in its current form (Collins, 2004). The ritual will either be changed in some way to meet the needs of the participants, or it will stop happening, and slowly fade from practice. In order to gain a better under standing of why family dinners are declining in frequency, semi-structured interviews were conducted with adults that are the primary caretaker and legal guardian of at least one minor currently enrolled in school. These adults lived in the Sarasota/Brade nton area to control for possible geographical cultural or behavioral differences. Th ese interviews delved into the specific circumstances and factors that affect the structure and frequency of their family dinners. Examining the formation and the changes to the cha racteristics and format of family dinners allowed for an examination of the di alectic relationship between the family unit and larger patterned elements of societ y, such as the American food system, and the ways that changes in social organiz ation, food systems, and dominant economic forms impact smaller, everyday interaction s between people. Large-scale changes in society have the ability to affect famil y life and the ways that family gets experienced in the 21st century. Analyzing commensality provides the uniqu e opportunity to look at how these changes affect the mundane aspects of society; that is, the least remembered and often overlooked time and place where people’s identities, dispositions, moralities, and skills ar e developed. Commensality allows for


9 this glimpse into the mundane because of its social nature, its regularity, and because it is a situation that inherently requires the acqu isition of material goods, requiring a direct contact between families and the surrounding society. Families are being utilized as the unit of measure, because the family unit acts as the conduit between the people comprising the family, and the society at la rge which provides the goods and services required to acquire the food needed to fee d the family. In the next chapter, I will provide a historical a nalysis of family dinners in America. This chapter begins by explaining the soci al climate leading to the conceptual genesis of family dinners, which began t o occur in their current form in the mid 1850’s (Cinotto, 2006). After the genesis o f family dinners, the second chapter will discuss Randall Collins’s Interaction Ritual theory and its implications as an explanatory tool for analyzing the changes to fa mily dinners. The second chapter ends with the rise and subsequent dominance of conv enience foods and fast food in America. This chapter deals specifically with the salient macro sociological trends which were set into motion which alter the specific context under which family meals operate, and how these changes to the context and c haracteristics of the meal impact the frequency of the meal. Chapter three will be co mprised of an analysis of the methodology used during the study, a literature rev iew discussing relevant studies that have added useful insight into the topic, and a discussion of the results of the study. Chapter four will be the conclusion for this thesis, providing a discussion of the findings, their implications, and the future direct ion for this line of research.


10 Chapter II: Interaction Ritual Chains and the Family Dinner Ritual In order to better understand the implications of the question, “What are the factors which influence the frequency of family mea ls?” a historical analysis was conducted in order to gain a better understanding o f the historic economic, material, and cultural contexts leading up to the formation o f the family dinner in America, and subsequent changes to the characteristics of the me al. Randall Collins’ Interaction Ritual (IR) theory was utilized because it provided the means to discuss family dinners within the context of the society that the dinner was situated. It enabled the discussion and analysis of the formation of the din ner ritual, how it has changed over time, and proved to be a useful tool for discussing the possibilities for why the dinner ritual may have changed over time. Randall Collins is a micro-sociologist, whose IR t heory proposes that the questions at the heart of Emile Durkheim’s classica l works “what produces social membership, moral beliefs, and the ideas which peop le communicate and think?” are “linked together by the same mechanism: ideas are s ymbols of group membership, and thus, culture is generated by the moral – which is to say emotional – patterns of social interaction” (Collins 2004: xi). Collins int erprets Durkheim from a microsociological perspective, relying on symbolic inter actionism, ethnomethodology, social constructionism and so forth. This allowed C ollins the potential to construct a ritual theory centered on the influence that situat ions have on individuals, what drives individuals to move from one situation to the next, and the impacts that previous situations have on current or future situations.


11 Randall Collins considers family dinners to be Int eraction Rituals, which are the “mechanism of mutually focused emotion and atte ntion producing a momentarily shared reality, which thereby generates solidarity and symbols of group membership” (Collins 2004: 7). Rituals are the everyday interac tions people have with one another which produce and sustain solidarity by focusing, i ntensifying, and transforming individuals emotions into shared sentiments and val ues, which Collins argues are cognitions infused with emotion (Collins 2004: 102) These emotions, sentiments, and shared values become the basis for communicatio n, group membership, and social relationships, and can be prolonged over tim e when they become symbols embedded in cultural objects. For IR theory, rituals are the nodes of social st ructure because they are the site where symbols become charged with meaning, and Collins argues that it is peoples’ respect for symbols that pattern society. These symbols will be respected by the population “only to the extent that they are ch arged up with sentiments by participation in rituals. Sentiments run down and f ade away unless they are periodically renewed…when the practices stop, the b eliefs lose their emotional import, becoming mere memories, forms without subst ance, eventually dead and meaningless” (Collins 2004:37). Rituals need to occ ur repetitively in order to maintain emotional energy, group solidarity, symbol ic meaning, and for socialization to endure over time. This has important implication s for the characteristics of familial relationships, because eating together is the most frequent activity that families do together. Consistently infrequent family dinners al lows the sentiments and meanings


12 of dinner fade, lessening the participants’ unconsc ious impetus to continually routinize and structure the dinner ritual. Collins argues that rituals require specific ingre dients if they are to successfully produce a momentarily shared reality w hich generates solidarity and imbues objects with symbolic meaning. These ingredi ents are group assembly (bodily co-presence), barriers to outsiders, a mutual focus of attention, and a shared mood (Collins 2004: 48). These ingredients were used as the basis for the operationalization of the definition of family dinners used when condu cting the semi-structured interviews. Thus, my definition of family dinners w as based on Collins’ argument that family dinner cannot begin until people gather together. The logic behind this stems from the argument that if people do not meet in close proximity for any significant duration, there cannot be a ritual – it is not a family dinner if the family does not get together. It would simply be individua ls eating food at approximately the same time in different locations. Eating on the run has been called ‘grazing,’ something which Levenstein (2003:208) argues may ch allenge the concept of the meal itself because this form of consuming food can occur whenever and wherever, allowing individuals to respond to their own immedi ate preferences and desires without needing to synchronize with or be around ot her members of their family. Collins’s argument that close proximity to the oth er participants of the ritual is necessary is based on the works of social psycholog ists who found that people tend “to be influenced most heavily by those who are clo sest in physical space,” something which “produces local agreement about important val ues and aptitudes”(Latane 1996:14). Thus, close proximity is important becaus e without bodily co-presence,


13 none of the positive outcomes of the dinner ritual would emerge. Were dinner to become just the act of serving food instead of bein g a site for socialization, the elements differentiating it from other meals disapp ears. For Collins (2004:41), ritual “holds society toget her as a pattern of stratified and conflicting groups,” as the perceived amount of conflict or strife increases, so will peoples reliance upon rituals. As individuals in the Victorian middle class felt that their family unity was being threatened by the new practices brought about by the Industrial Revolution, they developed a new set of rituals acting as a mechanism to transform their social reality by redefining their social roles and expectations and by tightening their in-group solidarity, which predomi nantly emerged in the shape of new commensal patterns. The adherence to these new meal patterns and characteristics signaled the beginning of the close association Americans ascribe to the propriety and otherwise deep associations betwe en sociability and eating. Subsequently, after its formation, Family dinners b ecame one of the centerpieces to the Protestant Middle Class’s social life (Levenste in 2003). Rituals have the ability to create this in-group solidarity, because they enter tain people’s emotions in a highly desirable way. Collins (2004:40) argues “It is the heightened experience of intersubjectivity and emotional strength in group r ituals that generates the conception of what is good,” making rituals “the source of the group’s standards of morality” (2004:40). By standards of morality, Collins means the sense of rightness in adhering to the group’s standards, respecting the group’s sy mbols, and defending both against transgressors.


14 Frequently eating dinners together in the same roo m provided an opportunity for 19th century Middle Class Protestant family to negotiat e and define their moralities, expectations, and group standards (Coll ins 2004) through repetitive, didactic interactions between family members. The n ecessary repetitiveness of rituals like the family dinner can result in the participan ts feeling that their family dinners are ordinary, giving family dinners a fairly mundan e quality. This rather mundane aspect of family dinners was the result of a consid erable amount of work that goes into inculcating the sense of ordinariness. As Gill is writes, “The fact that a meal is ordinary by no means deprives it of its significanc e, for the root of ordinary is order and that was the essential element that the newly i nvented Victorian family dinner provided”(Gillis 1996: 91). The sense of ordinarin ess and predictability that frequent family dinners engendered was important for member’ s of the Victorian era Middle class originally advocating and promoting these typ es of rituals, because they were looking for a way to create an orderly space where they could create solidarity between their family members amidst a quickly chang ing, often stratified society full of conflicting or otherwise competing groups of peo ple. Thus some of the tensions which arise are the family’s ability to keep a mund ane seeming ritual significant over time, and in the face of other competing activities which the participant may find more entertaining. In order for the ritual to be successful, Collins argues that there must be some way to differentiate the outsiders from the insider s, so that everyone participating in the ritual will know who is included, and who is ex cluded. For Collins, the interactions between small groups of people are the source of socialization and


15 communal standards, and can therefore influence the identity of the participants. Knowing who is in the group helps identify the unit as being meaningful, and helps to show participants who they ought to be paying close attention to. Furthermore, knowing who is included is important for collective ly defining and sharing a single situation. Sharing a single definition of the situation was e xtremely important for Collins’ theory, because it is through sharing the definition of a situation that individuals are allowed to emotionally entertain on e another, and potentially develop emotional energy. Collins argues that this “definit ion must be upheld by active efforts, and defended against breakdowns and rival definitions. It is above all the single focus of attention that is the eye of the ne edle through which the power and glory of interaction ritual must pass” (Collins 200 4: 52). Sharing one definition of the situation provides the basis for greater levels of intersubjectivity between participants as they share the same focus of attention, allowing them to momentarily share one set reality, something which will heighten the particip ants’ mood, and eventually increase their solidarity, produce group moralities and individual emotional energy. The dinner ritual is a situation occurring at a sp ecific point located in a specific place and time, that begins once the peopl e in the family gather together to commonly interact with the unique cultural object o f the dinner ritual, the prepared food. The structure of the ritual’s situation gets shaped within the bounds of the specific cultural practices, ideologies, and materi al constraints of the participants, and these participants are in turn shaped by the outcom es of the ritual, which may influence decisions relating to the future practice of similar rituals. Lacking any of the


16 necessary ingredients would substantively undermine the viability of the family dinner ritual, and so the focus of this investigati on revolved around the factors which may influence either the aspects of the unique cult ural object of the family meal, or would otherwise be a barrier or constraint to parti cipation in the dinner ritual. In America, most dinners eaten in the home are eit her done so alone, or with ones’ family (Sobal & Nelson 2003). Sobal and Nelso n’s (2003) assertion holds true until the family goes out to eat. Going out to eat with ones’ family was differentiated from eating meals in the home, because it fundament ally changes the organization of the group and the structure of the situation, which is important because it is the structure of the situation which generates and shap es the energy of the situation (Collins 2004:6). When families eat outside of the home, the structure of the situation changes as the boundaries between insiders and outs iders changes, the expected behavioral roles and norms of the participants chan ge, the production and consumption patterns are different, and the outcome s of the ritual will be different. “As individuals move from one situation to the next the structures of the situation change; as these structures change, different feeli ngs and behaviors emerge to match the situation” (Collins 2004: 43). What may be acce ptable behavior in the privacy of the home might be deemed unacceptable behavior in p ublic; an important social lesson for younger adolescence. Eating out changes the type of work required on th e part of the adults to feed their minors, which has the ability to engender vas tly different emotional outcomes from the ritual. When individuals eat at a restaura nt, they do not have to prepare the food or clean up after themselves or their families which may result in different


17 outcomes for the participants of the ritual in the form of different dispositions, morality, and relationship between members of the f amily. Furthermore, eating away from the home changes peo ples’ decision making process about the types of food they will eat. When going out, people eat larger servings of food that has less nutritional content than when they eat at home (de Castro 1991). Individuals eat different types and h igher quantities of food when they are at a restaurant than when they are at home (de Castro et al 1992; Guadalupe, Rogers, Arredondo, Campbell, Baquero, Duerksen, Eld er 2008); food that has less nutrients and more carbohydrates and cheese (Boutel le, Fulkerson, Neumark-Sztainer Story, French 2007). As the number of strangers an individual is surrounded by increases, the amount of food that they eat increas es (Sobal 2000:122). Furthermore, when individuals experience different external stim uli than they are accustomed, they increase the amount of food they consume (Wansink 2 004). Thus it was decided that going out to eat for dinner changes the situation d rastically enough to merit its own category of study, as it is very different from inhome commensality.


18 Chapter III: The History of the Family and Food Systems in Ameri ca This chapter on the History of Family and Food Sys tems in America examines many of the important material, cultural, structura l and ideological forces that have shaped feeding practices in America in order to pro vide context facilitating a deeper understanding of patterned commensal practices betw een family members, and the factors which substantially influence them. This ch apter will begin with an overview of America’s food systems, which directly influence the frequency and characteristics of family dinners by affecting access to the cultur al object of family dinners, the food. Food systems can be conceptualized as a “patterned aggregate that holds across micro-situations” (Collins 2004: 259) which influen ces the characteristics and frequencies of family dinners along the five main s ites where food and culture intersect: “production, distribution, preparation, consumption, and cleaning up.” ( Beardsworth, Keil.1997: 35) This chapter will discu ss some of the important historical transformations that have occurred affec ting the ways in which food and culture intersect, and will analyze the ways in whi ch these major transformations affect the characteristics and the frequency of fam ily dinners. The behaviors forming the basis of peoples’ ever yday lives, the shape of towns and cities, the types of mores and cultural t ools that people utilize, and the ideologies associated with these practices are impa cted by the types and quantities of food available for consumption. This chapter will s pecifically argue that the changes to the dominant mode of production, the level of te chnological advancement, the demographics, and ideological underpinnings of Amer ican society dialectically interact with its food systems, which influence the fundamental shape and


19 composition of American society. This historical na rrative will begin with agriculture as the basis for social development, will touch on the important changes that have affected America’s food system on either a direct o r indirect level, and will close with the ways in which these changes have impacted socia l forms of organization in America. In their book Sociology on the Menu Beardsworth and Keil (1997) demonstrate that an analysis of food consumption of fers the opportunity to illustrate and analyze a wide variety of social processes. The text begins with the argument that geographically stationary societies owe their exist ence to a technological revolution in agriculture which “created the conditions in whi ch increasing levels of population density and degrees of complexity in social organiz ation became possible.” (Beardsworth and Keil 1997: 20) Revolutions in agri culture, even in their early stages, entailed reshaping the earth to simplify bi ological relationships of the land in order to consistently produce a large enough quanti ty of food so to satisfy the biological requirements for growing numbers of peop le. The procession towards agriculture made it possible for large groups of pe ople to remain stationary for long periods of time due to the regular provision of foo d, which established the context for an increasingly intricate division of labor to deve lop. In “Circles of Growing and Eating: the Political E cology of Food and Agriculture”, Harriet Friedmann (1999: 34) defines agriculture a s being the “human activity that simplifies the mix of species in a de fined area of soil (a field) with a new view to… organized harvesting.” Agricultural practi ces reverses the ecological process of succession, by removing “the diverse org anisms from forest or grassland


20 and creates a simple ecosystem that consists of one or a few plants” (Friedman 1999:35). The first agricultural revolution entaile d the domestication of plants and animals; domestication refers to both the “control over reproduction and to the habitations of human groups with their dependent sp ecies” (Friedmann 1999:37). Domestication shifted portions of work from humans to specific nonhuman delegates, like oxen and horses which could be fitted with plo ws and other tools which helped increase the productivity of the farmland. These ac tants made the task of tilling and plowing fields much easier for humans; eventually a llowing them to modify larger tracts of land, and to utilize areas previously dif ficult to cultivate such as heavily wooded areas. Domestication not only created a hier archy amongst different species, situating humans on top of this hierarchy, it also began creating new hierarchical positions for humans to occupy. While agriculture produced larger quantities of fo od at predictable intervals, re-shaping the earth entailed longer working days a nd weeks than did hunting and gathering (Sahlins 1972). Agriculture rooted groups of people together geographically for long stretches of time, allowing them to build sturdier immobile structures, and later turn these into semi-permanent human settleme nts. Human beings, now tied by agriculture to their cultivated fields, began divid ing into stable groups called “households: hierarchical groups of human beings an d dependent species attached to, and deriving sustenance from, specific places in th e earth” (Friedmann 1999:33). As Friedmann (1999: 37) writes, “Households consist of ‘extended families’ of human beings and our servant species which are attached t o specific sites. Households, including not only kin but also servants (and slave s) of both human and other species,


21 have been the enduring institutions for the managin g and inheriting of, and living from, the land.”(Friedmann 1999: 39) The millennia of household-based agriculture gradually allowed groups of humans to develop stabl e farming systems, each optimized for their particular habitat and local ec osystem. Thus, a revolution in agriculture shaped the condi tions under which an increasingly intricate division of labor could thri ve, and under these set of conditions the Household emerged as the dominant form of socia l organization and relationship. Surpluses of food allowed large groups of people th e ability to live consistently in close proximity to one another, for extended period s of time, thereby providing the opportunity for people to create new interdependent relationships. These relationships were oftentimes generated through new production an d consumption patterns made available by the permanent settlements, and allowed for money based economies to proliferate. Family Life The meaning and organization of family life was dr astically different before the late 18th to mid 19th centuries. In A World of Their Own Making: Myth, Ritual, and the Quest for Family Values historian John Gillis points out that before the 19th century the household was a heavily trafficked, oft en bustling space of commerce. Houses were not the comfortable entertainment nodes that they are now (Gillis 1996); they were the main site of productive work (Cowan 1 976: 2), a place to sleep and a place to keep your material possessions. Gillis wri tes, “The house was not a strictly private space associated exclusively with the nucle ar family. It was still the primary place of work and the meeting place of different cl asses, genders, and ages” (Gillis


22 1996:16). The terms ‘household’ and ‘family’ were o nce interchangeable. Families weren’t based solely according to biological relati ons— family was a term that denoted the social relationship of individuals livi ng in the same home, laboring together. Gillis explains that during the 1700s, fa milies “supplemented their own literal natural reproduction with lateral social re cruitment. Families were made, not born, and because they were defined by place, not b y time, they felt no need to celebrate either birthday or anniversaries.” (Gilli s, 1996; 107) In addition to not celebrating each other in the ways we do now, early Americans did not spend much of their free time in their home; there was not eve n a separate room for dining yet. Even as late as the 1830s, most middle class houses lacked a dining room; instead the ‘eating room,’ which was largely an extension of th e kitchen, tended to be male dominated. In the article "Everyone would be around the table" American Family Mealtimes in Historical Perspective, 1850-1960” Sim one Cinotto argues that the social relationships between members within a house hold were mostly driven by functionality (Cinotto 2006), that was based upon a shared sense of mutual obligation (Hareven 1977: 64). Members of a household spent a majority of their time laboring together, as there were no institutions or market p ractices enforcing individuals to experience daily rigid departures from their famili es. As such, family life wasn’t celebrated to the same extent that it is now. Gilli s writes, Contrary to another of our favorite images of famil ies past, the desire for closeness for closeness’ sake was notabl y absent. Families usually gathered to work or to pursue comm unally organized leisure, not to have family occasions as such. Most such gatherings were returns to community rather than to family as such and the nostalgia we associate with family occasion s was entirely missing (Gillis 1996: 17-18). Co-habitants of a household didn’t treat each other much differently than they would someone else in the community (Gillis 1996), and th e time they spent together was


23 not often celebrated (Cowan 1976: 2) in the way tha t family celebrates their members now. Household relationships were constructed and m aintained according to the space the house occupied (Gillis 1996), and as such Gillis pointed out that if members of a household left, most communication bet ween said person and the household would cease, and would only be reinstated if the individual returned to the household. Postcards, family pictures, and other se ntimental forms of communicating between members of an extended family did not occur Furthermore, the celebration of birthdays, Christmas (as we envision it now), be d time, family time, and family dinners had yet to be conceptualized or put to prac tice. Until the industrial revolution caused a major tem poral reorientation, Americans conceptualized time cyclically, which was a dominant temporal orientation driven by the natural world. In the Art icle, “Deconstructing Family Time: From Ideology to Lived Experience” Kerry Daly (2001 :7) argues that “Time can be understood as the dynamic that exists between the i ndividual production of action in time and the reproduction of the temporal structure s within which those actions occur” (Daly 2001:7). The temporal structures form ing the foundations for cyclical time are the sun, the weather, and the seasons mean ing that the structures advancing notions of cyclical time are rooted in accordance w ith local ecosystems. As Daly (1996:5-6) writes, “for families, cyclical patterns of work and rest, planting and harvesting, celebration and mourning, or growth and decay were tied to the cycles of the natural world. The past, the present, and future were not as important as the naturally recur ring ecological cycles. Circular models of time continue to dominat e the patterns of experience for hunting-and-gathering and agricul tural societies.”


24 Workday activities varied greatly over the course o f the day, and over the course of the year moving in accordance with the seasons. Thu s, work rhythms tended to be extremely irregular (Zerubavel 1982). For example, since most workers were still being paid per item they produced, and since the la bor market was not oversaturated, workers often skipped work on Mondays when they did not need the money. This happened with such a great frequency, that many Ame rican workers jokingly worshiped the patron Saint of Monday.2 Additionally, the workweek itself was lopsided; for artisans, the beginning of the week w as meant for productive work, and the latter days of the week were spent at the marke t, selling the produced goods. Workplaces during and prior to the 1700s often lack ed the regularity or emphasis on punctuality that many workplaces have now. People’s work ethos and conceptions of time were strongly tied to the type of work and the associated expectations accompanying the type of work they were doing (Thom pson 1967). Specific to food consumption, Simone Cinotto (2006 :19) writes that, “Food consumption was dictated by the sequence of da ily activities, and hence, by natural, seasonal time. T he mealtimes roughly consisted of a hearty “breakfast” taken ear ly in the morning, before starting work; a midday “dinner,” w hich was the most substantial repast of the day; and a lighter “supper,” consumed after the work was done. However, this schedule was not formalized since the notion of the meal as a regular, structured activity of family li fe was at best vague.” Dinner in America has always been the most formal m eal, and also the biggest, even though it was not always eaten last. Eating the big gest meal in the middle of the day gave farmers and other workers a chance to take a b reak during the hottest part of the day. This practice functioned well while the home w as still the main site of production, since the laborers did not have to trav el far to get back home and since 2 Saint Monday ." Encyclopdia Britannica 2009. Encyclopdia Britannica Online. 11 Aug. 200 9


25 there were not any stringently enforced break times limiting the length of the break. However, once Americans started working away from t he home, and especially once workers had to clock in to their jobs, it became le ss feasible to take as much time during the day to eat. Gradually, as Americans work ed later into the day, dinner got pushed back to the end of the day, and the mid day meal became far more portable. Once the dominant form of production changed from b eing primarily agriculturally based to wage laboring jobs brought about by the in dustrial revolution, the eating habits of the affected Americans changed to better suit their needs. The Industrial Revolution This section argues that the industrial revolution established new working patterns which undermined the viability of the hous ehold, and radically challenged previous conceptions of space and time, and the soc ial organizations ordered according to the previous temporal orientation. Spe cifically in reference to temporal differences, cyclical time was replaced by concepti ons of linear time. In practice, cyclical time typically appears in agrarian societi es, and it supports long time horizons, favoring optimal exploitation of resource s over time. Linear time “holds that the appropriate time horizon is set by the int erest rate and market price” (Harvey 1990:420), and generally dominates in capitalist so cieties which typically favor rapid short term gains and accumulation. Linear time emer ged as a prevailing temporal orientation through the ensuing social interactions and practices which emerged after the dominant mode of production was changed. In the article “Between Space and Time: Reflections on the Geographical Imagination”, historian and geographer David Harvey argued that “the capacity to measure and div ide time has been revolutionized,


26 first through the production and diffusion of incre asingly accurate time pieces and subsequently through close attention to the speed a nd coordinating mechanisms of production and the speed of movement of goods, peop le, information, messages, and the like” (Harvey 1990: 425). Gillis took Harvey’s point a little further, arguing that “no well-managed household could afford to be witho ut a full complement of clocks and calendars carefully synchronized to the beat of the new industrial and political order” (Gillis 1995:11). Harvey’s arguments about the influence of a mode o f production on temporal orientation were similarly argued in E.P. Thompson’ s (1967 ) study, “Time, WorkDiscipline, and Industrial Capitalism” Thompson argues that the new modes of production brought about by the Industrial Revoluti on in America drastically restructured American laborer’s temporal order and personal values associated with time. He bases his claims on an examination of the ideological changes that farmers and other workers using their household as the basi s of their production underwent during their transition to factory work (Thompson 1 967:9). Thompson found that the changes from piece work to wage labor instilled a l inear time discipline3 in the workers, as the labor became standardized by timeta bles and measures of productivity, allowing factory work to be completed irrespective of the day of the week or month of year. Farmers and artisans who onc e oriented their productivity around the seasons, dividing their work into “relat ively imprecise periods to perform tasks such as planting, milking a cow, or harvestin g” (Daly 1996:6) found themselves working year round, as the clock culture of this ne w industrial society was not 3 Time discipline was characterized by the internali zation of the importance of clock time, which creates tensions and anxiety in relation to time.


27 constrained by many weather related phenomena. Dick ens and Fontana (2002:395) found that for people in less developed countries w ho use agriculture as their main mode of production, time tends to be viewed as bein g in surplus, whereas in, an industrialized society, time tends to be viewed as being scarce. Gillis (1995:8) argues that “the association of time with money and produc tivity spawned the idolization of efficiency as a key value in industrialized society ”, which not only made people more conscious of the passage of time, but also loathe t o waste time, as idleness became closely associated with waste. David Harvey (1990: 418) argues that “the revoluti onary qualities of a capitalistic mode of production, marked by strong c urrents of technological change and rapid economic growth and development, have bee n associated with powerful revolutions in the social conceptions of space and time”. As a result of the proliferation of new modes of production stemming f rom the industrial revolution, new conceptions of space and time were able to emer ge, resulting in new practices, ideologies, and mores influencing the characteristi cs and patterns of social relationships. In short, the industrial revolution radically altered the dominant mode of production, which affected people’s conceptions of time in such a way that promoted time discipline and haste. In addition to changes in time, the industrial rev olution changed the main site of production from the household to the factory, wh ich directly affected the viability of the household, as it drastically changed the con text upon which that social organization thrived. Harriet Friedmann (1999:41) w rites that in the wake of the industrial revolution,


28 Households and farming, the unified and local bases of human life since the beginning of civilization, became differe ntiated and marginalized. Increasingly … specialized markets co nnected farms, like factories, to anonymous markets. Wage r elations connected individuals directly to anonymous markets bypassing or penetrating households. The industrial revolution spawned practices and mor es that favored anonymous financial transactions which connects individuals t hrough an impartial, anonymous market in lieu of social relationships based around mutual obligation and the common site of production. Inevitably, this undermined the function and viability of the household as a social form of organization, which h ad been the historically “enduring unit of social life” (Friedmann 1999: 38). The hous ehold didn’t change all at once, however, since the household was primarily linked t o agriculture, as the percentage of American farmers decreased over time, so did the pr evalence of the household. Vestigial remnants of the household, such as domest ic servants who lived in the home, remained for many decades after the household started declining. Workers began moving away from households and towa rds urban centers to labor on the shop and factory floors for the first time in 1810; a rate which intensified and accelerated until the 1840s (USDA 2008). Betwee n 1820 and 1850, the population of America had grown from 12,860,702 to 23,191,876 in 1850, nearly doubling the population of the United States in a m atter of 30 years (Census Bureau 2002). This surplus of semi-skilled immigrants even tually led to an excess of unemployed individuals, effectively situating a lot of power into the hands of those controlling the means of production by undermining the worker’s job security. Due to a surplus of eligible, eager, unemployed workers br ought about by a population boom, missing work became grounds for dismissal. Th is meant that individuals had to


29 come to work despite being sick, hurt, sore, or lac king an immediate monetary need. These changes early on in the industrial revolution set into motion a set of standard practices which benefited the capitalist over the l aborer. Since those controlling the production profited from punctuality, efficiency, s cheduling, and haste, the factory workers were made to abide by their bosses work eth ics. Eventually this temporal orientation became internalized in the factory work ers (Thompson 1967). The new practices of the Industrial Revolution were made po ssible by America’s consistent agricultural production that allowed for an intrica te division of labor; the population growth that strengthened the capitalist’s power was also made possible by the semisufficient quantities of available food. While the food was not always savory for the lower rungs of society, it was still available in e nough quantity to allow the country’s population to grow at accelerated rates. A Revolution in Transportation America’s food systems were originally locally bas ed; food was sold and eaten within miles of where it was produced, and “t he circles of growing and eating were contained by the lands on which human beings m anaged the dependent species which fed them; as ingredients of cuisine, dependen t plants and animals linked human bodies and human cultures to the earth.” (Friedmann 1999:39) There was little personnel differentiation in terms of those who pro duction and distribute, allowing for elaborate network of growers and consumers who pers onally know each other to thrive (Pollan, 2008). “Food, therefore, was for mo st of human history inseparable from close relations with servant (and parasitic) s pecies and with the lands they cohabited” (Friedmann 1999:39). These close relatio ns between food, humans, and


30 the land were undermined by railroads which fueled westward expansionism of farms resulting in a growing number of impoverished immig rant settler farmers, who were unfamiliar with the ecosystems of the United States but who nonetheless had to farm large tracts of land to survive. Farmers and other food producers were originally l imited by their regional market size, a problem that was exacerbated by the finite shelf live of their produce. All perishables must be consumed before this shelf life has expired, meaning that crops themselves must be traded for revenue within a specific window of time. This fact limited the distance that an edible crop could travel before becoming worthless, restricting the regional scope of a farmer’s market Since the success of a society is largely dependent on its ability to keep the majori ty of its population adequately fed, or the social norms that work towards the appearanc e of maintaining social order will cease to function, the size of a successful city wa s originally modulated by access to food.4 Therefore, cities needed to have a sufficiently hi gh concentration of nearby farmland in order to produce enough food for it’s’ population. If the food had to travel from a great distance to reach the center of a city, it would be more expensive because of the additional transportation and handli ng costs. Since transporting food long distance also added the risk that the food wou ld spoil, it was an impractical option in most cases. These constraints on basic hu man needs served as a hard constraint to the growth of the city. The farmer’s problem of limited market size that co nstrained the size of cities was significantly mitigated by a revolution in tran sportation in the form of railroads, 4 Steel, Carolyn. How Food Shapes our Cities. TED pr esentation. 2009


31 which changed the distribution aspect of the Americ an food system.5 Before railroads, boats were the primary means of transpor ting perishable goods long distances. However, this form of transportation was only applicable for areas adjacent to waterways. Railroads began changing these social and economic interactions, as they provided an efficient way to transport a previ ously unprecedented number of people, material, and goods to more places, far qui cker and cheaper than any other available method. Gradually agriculture began taking on more complex forms of organization as transportation, along with improvements to producti on processes and large financial investments, allowed for new types of relationships between farmers and industry to form. Friedmann (1999:44) argues that it was the “S tates and railways intent on organizing vast expanses of land into national terr itories and international markets encouraged extensive land use.” The transportation boon brought about by the railroads allowed for the quicker expansion of land development on the western front. A large number of these types of farming establishm ents to settle in the west without a direct relationship with urban centers big enough to support the crop size were operated by impoverished immigrants. As Friedmann ( 1999:44) writes, “Emigrants fleeing the poverty of late-nineteenth-century Euro pe rode the new railways across the plains of North America to farm the unplowed ea rth recently cleared by force of their human and buffalo inhabitants.” These settler s, oftentimes low on money, 5 The railroads were also a monopoly that oftentimes oppressed farmers by charging exorbitant transportation prices, eventually prompting farmers to form the first farm organization called the Grange. The Grange’s protest against the railroads on July 4th, 1873, was called the “Farmer’s Declaration of Independence” The Grange arguing tha t the railroad monopoly had established an absolute tyranny over farmers that was “unequalled in any monarchy of the Old World.” (Ellsworth 1960: 155)


32 revived unsophisticated farming practices, since th ey were unable to properly translate any previous agricultural knowledge to th ese new tracts of land, which functioned based upon a different set of complex bi ological relationships than they were accustomed to in Europe. Amongst these techniques popularized by immigrant setters was monocropping, which greatly increases a crop’s yield wh ile also depleting the field of its nutrients at an accelerated pace. Due to their fina ncial shortcomings, and their short term need to survive, these settler farmers had pro blems investing in or other natural, sustainable inputs that could renew the soil. For g enerations, these settler farmers relied almost extensively on the stored fertility o f the land, built up over years by the grazing mammals that had once revitalized the soil. Generally, large urban centers develop interdependently with supporting farmers an d vice versa. However, the railroad system provided large groups of immigrant farmers the ability to easily move west, and cultivate large tracts of land, and provi ded them the means to efficiently ship their excess crops to other distant locations. Since the location of these new settlements was ba sed entirely upon the location of railroads, farmers became dependent upo n them to sell their products to distant markets and for purchasing the supplies the y needed from similar markets. Friedmann (1999:45) argues that these sorts of sett ler households were “shrunken households caught in a monoculture.” The household was preserved, although in an extremely simplified version, both in its simplifie d composition of dependent species, its tie to the land, and its gradual shift towards only including the nuclear family. In essence, these settler households on the plains beg an to take on the characteristics of


33 urban households, as they were no longer able to ad equately make a majority of what they needed. As these farmers adopted monoculture a gricultural practices, their labor became extremely specific and focused around indivi dual crops, meaning that these households were as much sites of consumption as the y were sites of production. Many food processing companies utilized the infras tructure brought about by the railroads to expand across the country, and use d the settler farmer’s reliance upon the railroads as leverage to get them into largely non-profitable contracts, where the settler farmer would grow the exact product specifi ed by the company. Technological improvements and large capital investments, which w ere made possible through a newly formed nation wide market allowing large fina ncial conglomerations to form, allowed for similar types of lop-sided relationship s to develop between food processing corporations and farmers, and eventually with every aspect of America’s food system. Harvey argues that the creation of the transportation grid, which began with the railroad, served to eliminate spatial barr iers, and annihilate space by time, something which he argues is “essential to the whol e dynamic of capital accumulation” (Harvey 1990:59). The transportation grid laid the groundwork for the formation of America’s first nation-wide markets, a llowing for large conglomerate companies of all kinds to form, including large foo d processing companies, advertisement agencies, financial firms and so fort h. The railroad industry also had a large impact on the size and density of urban settl ements. Railroads allowed cities the possibility of growin g larger than their surrounding area would otherwise be able to support shifting out smaller local farms for larger farm companies. Railroads began increasi ng the span of the vital support


34 structure of cities by changing the composition and breadth of the actor networks involved in the production and distribution of agri cultural products and livestock. The shape of American society began to change, as the n etwork of railroads allowed Americans to exact greater control over the land, a nd helped destabilize the spatial organization of social settlements once required, a llowing non-sustainable farm and housing settlements to organize independent of one another. Along with this revolution in transportation and t he introduction of effective communication technologies came a greater need for synchronicity between towns and cities. Before trains became a requirement for many American cities, time was not synchronized between communities. There was lit tle to no immediate communication and even less immediate travel betwee n communities before the railroad. Time was not a standardized unit of measu rement yet, further complicating travel. Solar time was the dominant form of time ke eping for town and villages; local communities kept their own time according to the re lative position on the earth. In practice, this meant that time deviated anywhere fr om minutes to hours between communities. Local time remained dominant until technological ad vancements produced and provided superior forms of transportation and c ommunication which caused major conflicts and logistical problems with timeke eping. As Evitar Zerubavel writes, “A rise in the rapidity of ways of communication an d transportation often accompanies the dissolution of segmental social str uctures and with the development of a fast railway network … communities which had p reviously led a rather autonomous existence gradually became interrelated parts of a single systemic


35 whole.”(Zerubavel 1982) The development of a systematic whole through the creation of advanced transportation and communication grids was accompanied by a further compression of space over time (Harvey 1990), which effectively lowers the value people place on space, and raises the value they pl ace on time. As expanding railroad systems helped the state to o rganize land, it also helped to define a standardized time for the land. In Amer ica, the change in the relationship between space and time can be seen in the introduct ion of The Uniform Time Act, which went into effect on the same day that the Dep artment of Transportation was created (Aldrich 2009). These laws gave the Secreta ry of the Department of Transportation the responsibility “for all matters concerning standard time throughout the United States” (Zerubavel 1982). The fact that the US department of transportation was created on the same day as the U niform time act indicates the extent of the relationship between time and space. Along with changes to the relationship between time and space came changes to the values associated with time. E.P. Thompson makes the argument, “It was railway t ransportation that, together with the rise of the factory, was primaril y responsible for spreading the significance of punctuality and precise timekeeping among the general population” (Thompson 1967: 99). Before the general population needed to clock-in for work, and before people had to be to their train on time, low er and middle class individuals placed little emphasis on punctuality. But in the y ears after train riding became common, and in the years after punching in to work became part of the dominant economic practice, punctuality became tied to notio ns of propriety, eventually becoming tied to decorum and respect (Thompson 1967 :10). Once this happened,


36 daily life became ordered primarily in accordance w ith machines. Gillis notes that, ‘Clock time hasn’t replaced the multiple social, bi ological, and physical sources of time; it has rather changed the meanings of the variable times, temporalities, timings, and tempos of bio-cultural origins” (Gillis 1995: 6 ), and provides people with the opportunity to break time up into smaller and small er units of measurement. Kerry Daly (Daly 2001:85) argues that this means clocks a nd schedules “objectify all aspects of time, and as a result, time is subject t o control through relations of power.” Daly argues time gets controlled through power rela tions because individuals increasingly order their lives according to their s chedules, and the individuals with the ability to decide when something occurs have po wer over others who do not have said ability6. The elements of Time Discipline (Thompson 1967) g radually became a foundation for social interactions. Clocks became e mbedded into the routines of people’s everyday lives, providing people with a un iversal background that allowed an increasingly large number of communities and ind ividuals within these communities to effectively synchronize with one ano ther. The ability for individuals to synchronize becomes more important as the distan ce between social spaces increases (Thompson 1967), and is given more value as people feel busier. The practices instilled in people during the Indus trial Revolution, in addition to the laws mandating that children go to school du ring the day, created a division in the way people spend time between the public and pr ivate spheres. While this division between public and private wasn’t a new co ncept, it did begin to take on new meanings (Cinotto, 2006) since the private sphere b ecame centered on the family 6 For a more in depth discussion of linear Time and Power relationships, read Barry Schwartz’s article “ Waiting, exchange, and power: The distribution of t ime in social systems ”


37 instead of the household. This meant that private s phere encompassed a shrinking number of people. Since most laborers began spendin g a majority of their time in the public sphere working, certain middle class familie s began vocalizing about the perceived lack of time kids and adults spent togeth er in the private sphere. The new meanings behind this temporal division, and the anx ieties that they spawned were the driving force behind the genesis of ‘family time’, “quality time”, and ‘spare time’7 The Family Dinner is one of many daily rituals brou ght into existence by Victorian Protestants as a way to ensure that families would spend time together every day. The mid-1800s: Changes in Family Life The early to mid 19th century proved to be a pivotal point for the struc ture of family life, especially for the middle class. It wa s during this decade that a large culmination of trends, both economic and social, le d to massive social movements initiated by the Middle Class Victorian Protestants to reform the family. By 1850, farmers had dropped to 64% of the labor force, down 5% in the matter of a decade (USDA 2008). This trend would continue for many dec ades as factories and other successful commercial enterprises began producing m ore profitable ventures than home-run businesses. By 1860, the percentage of far mers in the labor force dropped to 58% (USDA, 2008); by 1880, farmers only made up 47% of the labor force (USDA). As a result of the perceptions of new oppor tunities to gather wealth, an increasingly larger number of males began leaving t he home on a daily basis to join the new industrial workforce. As the number of farm ers declined, so did the 7 The Victorian work ethic held spare time as a rew ard for hard work. (Daly, 1996).


38 prevalence of the preindustrial household model of social relationships, giving way for the rise of the nuclear family. Wage labor “dictated the temporal organization of everyday life” (Daly 1996:7) for both the individual working in the work force, and his family, who wouldn’t be able to interact with the workers until he returned home. The industry’s practice of strictly controlling and structuring an individual’s time during the week was later to be adopted by the State for its educat ional system. Public schools followed suit in that they dictated the ways childr en were expected to spend their time. Strictly enforced linear time that dictated p eople’s lives according to the schedules, calendars, and clocks of newly emerging capitalist enterprises and schools began limiting the total amount of time family memb ers could spend together per day. More than just signaling a difference of place, thi s new linear quantitative time dictated what a person was required to do, the spee d at which the action was to be accomplished, and the duration of their task. In pr actice, this new time was dictated by mechanical devices, divided husbands from their wives, and children from adults by bringing them away from each other for a majorit y of the day. Families went from being a diverse form of social organization utilized primarily as a means of accruing capital to a biolo gically based, exclusive, shrinking group that would now be doted on and ultimately che rished. Banks and the stock market began to replace family and kin as sources o f capital (Cinotto, 2006). Gillis notes, “Getting married for money or for jobs used to be commonplace, but this practice was gradually replaced, and the family bec ame a term of endearment. Fathers and mothers, who used to go by the title Sir and Ma dame, were now called mommy


39 and daddy with an increased frequency” (Gillis 1996 : 67). The idea of what the notion of family entailed, which had once been almo st entirely indistinguishable from their surrounding group of friends and neighbors be gan taking on a sharper image. This new sharpness entailed a strict distinction b etween the notions of family and household; families were now to be defined biol ogically instead of socially. Individuals, now forced to go out into the communit y on a daily basis for their subsistence, began retreating from their communitie s and instead began adulating the nuclear family, the children in particular. Gillis argues that this massive overhaul made it such that “family had become a kind of perf ormance, demanding just the right language, dress, and etiquette” (Gillis 1996: 76). Family became the new object of endearment for the Protestant Victorian middle c lass; they were no longer something to be taken for granted, families’ now re quired special focus and attention. Hareven argues that these new patterns of family ca rried with them “patterns of segregation in family roles” (Hareven 1977: 66). H areven’s argument is that, while the modern, privatized nuclear family has been pres ented as being a progressive stepping stone towards a rational, equalized family unit, “the increase in role segregation among family members (a direct product of nuclear family isolation) has tended to diminish the opportunity for equality wit hin the family” (Hareven 1977 : 6869). As families stopped being instrumental relationship s based around production, a strict division of labor became the norm in the hom e, and “motherhood as a full-time vocation emerged” (Hareven 1977: 68). In order to cope with these massive changes to fam ily life resulting in being around people for less time, the Victorian Protesta nt middle class began pushing for


40 families to spend ‘quality time’ with each other, a nd began inventing new traditions as a means to get families together on a regular ba sis (Gillis 1996; Richard, Hareven & Ehmer 2006; Cinotto, 2006). The idea of quality time was practiced through the genesis of rituals and traditions taking place on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. These middle-class Victorian Protestants were the f irst to explicitly argue that family time was in short supply (Gillis 1995:23), and they used ritual as the means to solve the problem they articulated. The less time that fa milies could spend with one another, the more the idea of family time came to m atter, and thus the more emphasis they put on frequent family meals. “The daily, weekly, and annual occasions they beque athed to us provide, according to David Harvey, ‘a sense of sec urity in a world where the general thrust of progress appears to be ever onwards and upwards into the firmament of the unknown.’ The intersubjectivity stimulated by new family rituals provided the reassurance of family stability and continuity that could no longer be found in everyday interaction” (Gillis 1995:13). These new rituals ranged from annual rituals such a s celebrating a minor’s Confirmation into church, celebrating birthdays and Christmas, all the way to the introduction of daily rituals, such as formalized b edtimes, and of course, daily family dinners. The middle class created a new calendar th at was full of domestic holidays meant for family gatherings, replacing seasonally b ased communal events, like harvest festivals and midsummer games with family o riented holidays. These new rituals were the Victorian Protestant middle class’ s way to ensure that families would be able to spend frequent ‘quality time’ together, emphasizing that even though family members saw each other less, the times in wh ich they did interact were given more emphasis, and were made to be much more meanin gful. Their repetition over time supplied a greater sense of solidarity in the face of a rapidly changing world. This regular ritualization of life contributed to a n increasingly acute differentiation


41 between public time and private time, and relied up on a strict adherence to time discipline, which further emphasized punctuality an d timeliness. Before dining rooms became a common room in the ho me, areas in the kitchen were set aside for eating. This was a space intended predominately for males to eat; since furniture was often scarce, even in m iddle class homes, it was reserved for the head of the household. (Gillis, 1996: 86) Dining rooms changed this by providing an entire room for the family to be toget her at the same time, by providing a highly demarcated structure to familial interacti ons, and by allowing families to “ritually construct a sense of togetherness” (Gilli s, 1996: 90). The dining room as we envision it today didn’t start appearing in middle class homes until the 1830s, and it wasn’t until the mid 1840s that dining rooms had be come standard rooms in new middle class houses (Cinotto 2006). The furniture in these new dining rooms was plentif ul enough for everyone to sit down together. Dining room tables, while still symb olically indicating the father’s power by situating him at the head of the table, pr ovided a consistent place for the entire family to sit down, face each other, and eat together. As the relationship Americans had with each other and with their production had shifted, so did their eating habits. As Simone Cinotto writes, “By the 1850s and 1860s, as standardized schedules of school and work began to impress their rhythms on middle class family life; there had emerged a ca refully ordered progression of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which marked off the middle class from the big lunch eaters down the social scale. (Cinotto 2006: 20) Di nner used to be the meal eaten in the middle of the day, followed by supper, which we re generally the leftovers from


42 dinner. As the production moved out of the house, h aving large meals in the middle of the day became less practical. Lunch became the meal that it closely resembles today; quick, light, and generally far less social than dinners. Dinners kept the same name, quantity of food, and special qualities, and became the last meal of the day. As such, the evening and night became the domain of th e Protestant middle class of the mid to late 19th century (Gillis 1995). The 1880s to the 1900s The rapid urbanization and industrialization of ci ties, which changed the demographic composition and characteristics of hous eholds, generated a wide array of new social patterns. Some of the new social patt erns caused by urbanization and industrialization were enough to cause many wealthi er Americans anxiety; “By the early 1880s, many wealthier Americans were coming t o realize that industrialization was creating immense social, economic, and politica l problems. As they looked at the swelling slums of the cities, at the festering fact ory towns, at armed conflicts between workers and the forces of capital, fears of social upheaval and an explosion from the lower classes became more than simply nightmares of the faint hearted” (Levenstein 2003:44). Some of these wealthy Americans became ph ilanthropists and reformers who were convinced that working-class Americans had developed wasteful and unhealthy food habits, and that these improper eati ng habits were the cause of their moral shortcomings. They singled out the poor eating habits of the wo rking class, claiming, “nutritionally inadequate diets produced moral as w ell as physical degradation… failure to mend America’s ‘foodways’ would bring th e exhaustion of its resources and


43 economic and moral decline”(Levenstein 2003:47). Ma ny of these philanthropists subscribed to the Victorian notion that the “privat e domain of the home and the family was the foundation on which a healthy libera l and democratic society could possibly be built.”(Cinotto 2006:24) Thus the degra ding social conditions seen at the heart of the quickly expanding urban centers of Ame rica were to be cured by directly changing the eating habits, and by restructuring th e home life of the new immigrants and other urban poor to closely match the home life depicted by the Victorian Protestants in the 1850s. The underlying ideology motivating these reformers ’ attempts were grounded in the Victorian Protestant ideal that family cohes ion, and thus social cohesion on a larger scale, could be engendered through proper, h abitual commensal patterns. However, this first generation of gastro-reformers attempting to help the lower-class ignored the underlying problems of economic insecur ity which directly affected the quantity and quality of food available to these gro ups. Periods of employment and unemployment, on top of the astronomical injury rat es associated with early factory work, made gathering consistently adequate food sup plies difficult for many urban workers. To make things worse, the first wave of fo od conscious reformers often advocated dangerous, unhealthy eating habits by tod ay’s nutritional standards (Levenstein 2003:103)8. After a few years hard work rewarded with very li ttle success, these first generation reformers quickly b egan realizing that the “prototypical ‘American worker’ they had theorized about hardly e xisted, and the food habits of the 8 The First wave of New Nutritionists, the group ori ginally targeting working class eating habits, were able to convince a large segment of the population that, based on their calculations, their new scientifically designed baby formula was healthier than a mother’s breast milk. However, Vitamins hadn’t been discovered during this time period, and the infants who were given formula became malnourished, later developing more diseases and pr oblems growing.


44 newer immigrants were resistant to ‘American’ attem pts to change them.” (Levenstein 2003:52) First generation immigrants te nd to be highly resistant to changes to their food practices, because food can b e used to express culture and help retain in-group solidarity (Valentine 1999). As Cha rles Camp writes, “Ordinary people understand and employ the symbolic and cultu ral dimensions of food in their everyday affairs. Food is one of the most, if not t he single most, visible badges of identity, pushed to the fore by people who believe their culture to be on the wane”(Camp 1989: 56). This feature of group solidar ity intensified when immigrants were confronted by non-empathetic outside forces at tempting to reform their behaviors without establishing any prior credibilit y amongst said workers (Collins 2005). As a result, these reformers attempts fell s hort of their goals to change the eating habits of this population. Changing the Middle-Class’s Culinary Standards Just one hundred years ago, food preparation in Am erica took up a considerably higher amount of a person’s time than it does now. In the late 19th, and into the 20th century, it was still most common for a family’s f ood to be prepared by women, who were often not allowed to fully particip ate in the activities occurring in the public sphere. Before a majority of American ho useholds switched to gas stoves around the late 1880’s,9 wood needed to be collected and chopped before a m eal could be cooked – a task usually delegated to the s ervants if one lived in a middleclass or farm household, or delegated to the wife i n lower class housing. Obtaining sufficient fuel for cooking fires required people t o plan meals in advance. During the 9 Stove." Encyclopedia Britannica 2009. Encyclopedia Britannica


45 beginning of the 20th century, women spent an average of 44 hours a week preparing meals and cleaning up afterwards (Bowers 2000). Fro m this point onwards, the average number of hours women spent preparing meals per week continued to drop. This was due in part to technological innovations t hat sharply cut the required food preparation time (Bowers 2000), but also because of the changes in the sociodemographic characteristics of the American househo ld, and changes to the definition of what constitutes a proper meal. By the end of the 19th century, the word ‘weekend’ had come into use (Rybcznski, 1991), as new forms of leisure activiti es such as the family vacation became popular amongst the middle-class (Gillis 199 6). “The increased emphasis on leisure activities was also part of a larger, more subtle change in the nature of middleclass marriage. The social segregation of the sexes was breaking down as companionate marriage became the universal middle-c lass ideal.”(Levenstein 2003:164) Leisure time activities were quickly bec ame desired by many Americans and were subsequently capitalized upon, laying the foundation for a multi billion dollar entertainment industry comprised of an ever changing array of new activities which competed for people’s time, attention, and mo ney. In the years after 1880, the middle-class began quickly expanding in number as i ndustrialization and urbanization created swaths of new occupations, which provided e nough fiscal capital for the middle-class to begin emulating the dining styles p opularized by the upper-class. The major burdens of family relationships had beco me “emotional, while, in the early nineteenth century, they were heavily wei ghted toward economic needs and tasks.” (Hareven, 1977. 64) The home had gradually ceased to be the semi-public


46 centralized hub for productivity for most Americans especially in urban centers, and having unfamiliar people in the house was becoming less common. As such, most of the traffic throughout the house was primarily the nuclear family, meaning that the majority of the household could be kept cleaner for longer periods of time, eventually allowing domestic laborers to clean with increasing detail. Eventually, as the family was becoming the object of adulation for more of th e middle-class (Gillis, 1996), and the home had become one of the vehicles for perform ing new family roles, higher standards of cleanliness became expected. Maintaini ng a pristine house had become important for the image of the middle-class. The falling prices of exotic foods, and the contin ual advancements in food preservation, processing, and preparation expanded the types of food available to the middle-class. Cooking schools for middle-class wome n, proliferating in the 1880s and 1890s, helped encourage elaborate food displays for everyday family dinners which were expected to be multiple course meals. These co oking schools were run by “domestic scientists, who saw culinary salvation in the increased ‘refinement’ of cooking and taught ridiculously complex methods of cookery and presentation which made cooking a more onerous, time-consuming process than ever” (Levenstein 2003:79). Dinner parties became a popular form of e ntertainment and a central feature of middle-class social life (Levenstein 200 3:61) beginning in the 1880s. These popular dinner parties were often thematically base d, with hosts entertaining their guests with elaborate displays of food linked by th e theme, presented throughout the dinner over multiple courses. These dinner parties were also a way for middle-class families to highlight and show off their highly fun ctional families to other middle-


47 class families. Eventually, dinner clubs, which inv olved members of the club competing against one another to throw the best din ner party, became trendy. Throwing a successful dinner required a great deal of skilled work on the part of in-home housekeepers, 10 who helped prepare and serve the meal. While the housewife oftentimes oversaw the preparation of the food, “there was no way she could cook the meals of the kind expected both by g uests and family without the aid of at least one servant of considerable skill in th e kitchen” (Levenstein 2003:61). The dining styles of the upper-class relied greatly on having multiple servants, who lived in the household, to aid in the preparation. As the popularity of dinner parties increased alongside the middle class’s purchasing p ower, so did dinner’s expected level of opulence; etiquette books began suggesting that the host households employ one servant for every three guests (Levenstein 2003 ). Dinner parties continued being an integral part of middle class life in the north until there was a lasting shortage of affordable, competent domestic servants, one of the vestigial remnants of the household organization of preindustrial America tha t many middle-class families relied heavily upon (Cowan, 1976. 7) to perform imp ortant social events. The shortage of domestic servants began in the lat e 1880s, which were mostly nonexistent in middle-class households by the 1920s Previously, northern European immigrants and American farm girls had once made up the population of domestic servants, but they too began migrating to the city to work in a profession that would allow them to have leisure time. As this population dwindled, it was not refilled by immigration, as most of the immigrants were now com ing from East and Central Europe. The shortage of servants effectively added more domestic responsibilities to 10 Housekeeper: The term used then to denote those wh o owned and managed households.


48 the ever-growing list of tasks women were expected to complete, making it more difficult for them to participate in activities in the public sphere. In practice, the servant shortage left many middle-class women, who had previously relied upon domestic servants to cook and clean the responsibil ity of learning how to maintain these new standards of living, something which was exhausting and extremely timeconsuming. Supporting proper family mealtimes, in addition to the continuation of elaborate dinner parties in the face of a servant s hortage, became one of home economics’ and domestic scientists’ main concerns ( Strasser 1982). Especially in the north, the number of servants living in the househo ld by which they were employed sharply declined after 1900, as the number of immig rant girls wasn’t sufficient enough to refill the numbers of women leaving their service for marriage or factory jobs. Levenstein (2003:62) writes, “In the face of these kinds of demands, it’s easy to understand why by the 1890s middle-class women were becoming virtually obsessed by the ‘servant problem,’ for it seemed to be the m ain obstacle to fulfilling society’s expectations of them.” Subsequently, many plans to circumvent the need for competent servants were devised. Among these plans were teaching new servants by providing them with special schooling, cooperative kitchens, delivery services, and scientific cooking. After all, it wasn’t a shortage of available servants so much as it was a shortage of servants with the skills middle c lass families had come to expect. Servant schools weren’t often economically viable, as servants began leaving the household that paid for their schooling for househo lds that would pay more money for a trained servant. Cooperative kitchens and ope rating communal kitchens, where


49 middle-class families could share trained servants were attempted in some urban areas, but eventually stopped after experiencing li ttle in terms of prolonged financial viability, and a lack of willing servants. Delivery services and take-home food businesses be gan cropping up, but these options weren’t widely available to the masses due to the price of ordering a threecourse meal for an entire family. It wasn’t until A mericans ceased demanding elaborate, multi-course meals that home delivery of foods became a viable solution. A two year study on take-home foods of the middle-cla ss was conducted by the Boston’s Women’s Education and Industrial Union and Association of Collegiate Alumnae were published in 1901.The study reported t hat the “home delivery of food was in keeping with the long-run evolution of the h ome: ‘In so far as it is in line with the general impulse by which industrial and social forces are shaping the world, it is inevitable. Failure to recognize the tendency can o nly prolong present friction and discomfort; attempts to thwart it can only result i n defeat.” (Levenstein 2003:70) This study argued that the tendency of household managem ent was moving away from employing servants, and towards the direction of de legating their labor time to the industry in the form of convenience based products. This stance advocated contracting an increasing number of households’ res ponsibilities to outside agencies in lieu of doing them yourself: a trend that would continue indefinitely as members of household delegate their previous responsibilities to time-saving devices in order to have more leisure time, increasing their reliance u pon the market and decreasing their reliance on other members of the household.


50 This approach to household responsibilities was in creasingly advocated by philanthropists, women’s clubs, schools colleges an d universities, and a number of other organizations, which saw scientific advanceme nts as being the future direction of household labor. As Gillis writes, “by midcentur y, linear time had entered the domestic sphere to the same degree that it had pene trated every other dimension of society. Housework was already being talked about i n the language of ‘business’ and ‘management,’ and working relationships, especially those with servants, were becoming increasingly rationalized (Gillis, 1995: 1 1). This approach to domestic work had developed from the positivist doctrine whi ch believed “that every segment of life could be rationalized with a scientific app roach and from the Victorian notion that the private domain of the home and the family was the foundation on which a healthy liberal and democratic society could possib ly be built.”(Cinotto 2006:22) Many university cooking classes which once taught women how to create the elaborate meals expected at dinner parties began ta king on scientific and economic aspects, which emphasized the quantifiable aspects of food like calories, fat content, and protein over the taste, smell, and aesthetic va lue. Elite universities were among the first colleges to pick up the scientific approa ch to domestic work in the later decades of the 19th century; they saw the domestic sciences as a prope r venue for women desiring to enter into a scientific disciplin e. This new scientific approach to domestic tasks quickly gained support from many pro minent individuals. As early as 1886, Ellen Richards was one of the fi rst affluent advocates of scientific cooking for a solution to the servant cr isis. The Women’s Congress of 1893 followed suit, and came to the conclusion that “the solution to the problems of the


51 middle-class household lay in putting it on a scien tific basis.” (Levenstein 2003:80) Subsequently, the women in attendance formed the Na tional Household Economics association, “whose organizing manifesto expressed two main objectives, both of which tackled the ‘servant crisis.’ The first was t o organize ‘schools of household science and service’ and establish employment burea us for servants. The second was ‘to promote among members of the association a more scientific knowledge of the economic value of various foods and fuels’ as well as ‘the importance of proper sanitation and plumbing in the home.’(Levenstein 20 03:80) Popular cookbooks and publications began advocating simpler fare, and coo king magazines began offering simpler recipes for people to use. Simpler fare gen erally meant a return to British fare, instead of French cuisine, meaning a return t o broiling meat, with one to two sides of vegetables. Simpler fare was touted by the se scientific institutions because their ability to adequately measure things like pro tein and calories were limited, making them unable to measure these newly emphasize d aspects of food if it was too complex. Fanny Merritt Farmer, the writer of one of the mos t popular cookbooks in American History, prefaced her 1896 Boston Cooking School Cook Book with an “implied admonition against those miscreants who li ved to eat” (Levenstein 2003:84) and wrote that, “the time is not far distant when k nowledge of the principles of diet will be an essential part of one’s education” (2003 :84). She was, for the most part, correct in this assumption that domestic life was t o become increasingly regulated by scientific and economic principles taught in public schools, and characterized by the delegation of domestic labor to products created in industrial factories. Her jab at


52 ‘those miscreants who live to eat’ illustrates the emerging social context regarding proper eating habits, which were centered around ea ting small quantities of food, and doing so for health reasons in lieu of taste. Scien tific home economists were widely supported by many Women’s Clubs in America, whose m emberships were accelerating in number in the 1890s and early 1900s These clubs allowed homemakers to focus on activities taking place outs ide of their home in an interesting, socially acceptable format (Levenstein 2003:81). On ce domestic work began picking up scientific characteristics, the field also began receiving large donations and increased funding from both the government (Levenst ein 2003), as well as by the food industry (Pollan 2008). Just as industrial wage labor strictly regulated p eople’s time, praising efficiency and scientific progress, domestic labor began the same path of strict regularization and later mechanization. At the begi nning of the 20th century, adopting the persona of the idealized family while also enjo ying leisure activities had become so important for the middle-class that college-trai ned domestic scientists began to instruct middle-class wives on the ways to optimize their time and their resources, by using “methodical home organization and wise consum ption of the new massproduced consumer goods.”(Cinotto, 2006. 24) Wives and other domestic laborers were taught to cook and clean in new ways by home e conomists, whose methods relied heavily upon time management and advocated s aving time by utilizing massproduced goods (Bowers 2000:25), which were beginni ng to be marketed as quick and effective scientific solutions to domestic prob lems (Cowan, 1976). Among the new things taught in schools and spread by prominen t Women’s clubs were the


53 methods and ideologies made famous by the New Nutri tionists (Levenstein 2003), a group of influential scholars and entrepreneurs foc used on promoting scientific cooking and eating. The New Nutritionists prioritized the nutritional a nd other scientific aspects of food over its’ taste. Fine cooking was not what the y wanted to circulate; instead they focused on the tenants of the New Nutrition. Among the tenants of the New Nutrition were that “one was supposed to ‘eat to live rather than live to eat’; that food was composed of various ‘nutrients,’ including proteins carbohydrates, and fats; and that food contained varying amounts of calories, which h ad something to do with energy” (Levenstein 2003:80). These lessons entailed instru ction to eat less, and to eat the foods that were high in nutritional value, while de -emphasizing taste. These lessons were important because they made the vocabulary of nutrition “part of the middleclass lexicon” (Levenstein 2003:80), which affectin g peoples relationship with food by changing the criteria people use to choose their food. The message from the New Nutritionists was able to expand so effectively among the middle-class because, by 1900, public sch ool systems in the north east were also expanding rapidly. Since most instruction about New Nutrition was concentrated in these public schools, and since a l arge percentage of immigrants and working-class people would drop out in their early teens, the message of the New Nutritionists mainly reached the native middle-clas s (Levenstein 2003:79). By adopting the tenants of the New Nutritionists, many middle-class wives found that they were able to “downgrade both the quantity and quality of what was expected from kitchens”(Levenstein 2003:83) in a socially ac ceptable way, allowing them to


54 decrease the time they spent cooking in the kitchen freeing up other time which could be spent on leisure activities. Applying basic scie ntific principles to the preparation of food, especially in the earlier less advanced stage s, led to the popularization of simpler foods (Levenstein 2003:83). As the middle-class attitudes towards food were be ginning to change, large scale processed-food industries began to emerge. Of the largest sectors of the food processing industry, “meat packing, flour, milling, sugar refining, and baking – only fourth ranked baking was not dominated by a few gia nt corporations, though its important cracker baking sector already was.” (Leve nstein 2003:38) One of the first types of mass produced industrial processed food, o r convenience foods, came in the form of dry cereals, which “were introduced in the 1890’s as health foods” (Bowers, 2000. 24), during the same decades that the servant shortage began to take on importance in public discourse. Convenience foods a re “fully or partially prepared foods in which significant preparation time, culina ry skills, or energy inputs have been transferred from the home kitchen to the food processor and distributor” (Capps, Tedford, Havlicek 1985:863). When the processing in dustry was in its infancy, competing processing companies utilized extremely s imilar technologies in their production processes. These similar processing tech niques used by competing companies “produced foods that were absolutely unif orm in appearance, quality, and taste.” (Levenstein 2003:56) Since many of products from one company were largely indistinguishable from similar products made by oth er companies, advertising, new promotional strategies, and brand names became extr emely important for the continual success of these competing companies. In 1877, advertisements for


55 processed foods accounted for less than 1% of adver tisement agencies’ business. By 1901, food made up 15% of total advertisements, and food processing accounted for 20% of the country’s manufacturing (Levenstein 2003 : 35). Advertising was important to processing companies because it advoca ted to the American consumer the reasons why they ought to substitute their home made food for industrial processed foods. It was also necessary because it provided co nsumers a way to differentiate one company’s product from another’s; brand names playe d a large part in this. In the early decades of the twentieth century, the protestant family image from the 1850s became institutionalized in home economic s classes taught in public schools financed by the national government. These teachings were initially received by primarily middle-class students, as they were th e demographic most likely to be in school for the entirety of their junior and senior years during this time period. These teachings reinforced binary gender roles by teachin g and enforcing expected gendered scripts that further outlined the accepted image of a functional, middle-class family and its position within society. The automobile, and later the airplane, made it mu ch easier for massquantities of processed foods to be distributed lon g distances. As David Roth (2000), historian and anthropologist with the Food and Rura l Economics Division of the USDA writes, the United States was the “first conti nental market where food products could be shipped hundreds and then thousan ds of miles without barrier. Market unification greatly enhanced specialization and productivity”, and increased productivity promotes the standardization of Americ an cuisine (Honore 2004; Pollan 2008). The transportation infrastructure, which all owed for a unified market to


56 emerge in the United States, opened up new possibil ities for corporate organization, and specifically paved the way for vertical integra tion. Vertical integration involves individual companies controlling every aspect of th eir product, from production, packaging, and distribution to its advertising, all owing the corporation to directly control the costs associated with making the produc t, and allows them to control the prices that the products are sold for. “In industry after industry, large new organizations arose. Advances in distribution, occa sioned by better roads, trucks, and automobiles, played major roles. So did continuing improvements in the technology of large-scale manufacturing and packaging of foods .” (Levenstein 2003: 151) Vertical integration proved to be a very profitable model of organization, leading to its’ subsequent adoption by competing firms, and qu ickly became a defining characteristic of the rapidly expanding food indust ry. The processing industry began shaping consumer pre ferences and tastes through advertisements, and with the aid of nutriti onal research. New advertisements were released that utilized the information taught in home economics class as a means of touting the benefits of their processed foods. F or example, vitamins were discovered in 1912, however, ways to measure the am ounts of vitamins wasn’t discovered for almost 20 years, making suggestions for recommended amounts impossible to do accurately (Levenstein 2003: 149). Quickly after its discovery, vitamins were used by competing companies as sellin g points, eventually leading to a new class of extravagant health claims and benefits “Desperate for leverage, advertisers turned to the newer nutrition for weapo nry. Invisible, immeasurable, and tasteless, obviously important but with little know ledge of exactly why, vitamins and


57 minerals were an advertiser’s dream.”(Levenstein 20 03:152) Consumers knew enough about nutrition at this point to know that v itamins were good for them, but they were unable to accurately gauge exactly how th ese vitamins were beneficial, an ignorance utilized by advertisers to make more sale s. This demonstrates one of the ways in which changing the lexicon of food through education provided people with different motivations underlying their consumption of food. This trend of utilizing scientific information as the basis for changing ea ting habits intensified during World War I, as the government began adopting strategies popularized by advertising companies, and as the link between home economics a nd the food industries strengthened (Levenstein 2003:198). During the First World War, The Food Administratio n and the war department began an aggressive advertisement campaign, which “ taught millions of people, for the first time, that there was a difference between potatoes and tomatoes, that there were things called calories, that some foods were s imilar to each others and others were not. These would be important concepts that th e advertising industry of the 1920s would exploit.”(Levenstein 2003:146) Teaching the similarities and differences between foods, like for instance that meat can be s ubstituted with beans in order to get protein, allowed the government to keep the pri ce of food necessary for the war effort cheap, which lowered the cost of food for th e soldiers while also keeping the general public healthy. Teaching substitutability a lso allowed the processing food industry to further promote their strategy of getti ng people to substitute fresh foods for processed foods. These lessons allowed marketin g agencies to argue that the


58 differences between fresh food and processed food w ere negligible, especially once processed food companies began adding vitamins to t heir processed food. One of the consequences of the wartime effort was the availability of an “unprecedented number of employment opportunities f or women,” (Bowers 2000) which allowed a growing number of women to particip ate in a greater number of spheres in the paid labor force in America in a soc ially acceptable fashion. Access to paid labor paved the way for women wanting to parti cipate in other activities of the public sphere, allowing women to take on limited pu blic roles and responsibilities for the first time. With more spheres of activity becom ing available, women were allowed to leave the home for longer periods of tim e. However, time not-spent in the home meant time not-spent in their domestic roles, which previously had been rigidly relegated to them after the changes to the home and family and was intensified after the decline of the in-home servant. This meant that women had to come up with ways to decrease the time required to fill their previous role expectations. By and large, women cut back on the time they spent cooking as a way to free up time fo r other roles and responsibilities (Levenstein 2003), and facilitated their quicker co oking desires by substituting in larger quantities of processed foods. Their solutio n was to cut down on the number of courses of the meal, which reduced the duration of the meal, and to utilize processed foods and other convenience items in higher quantit ies which reduced the amount of labor they had to put into preparing the meal, gene rally decreasing the overall cooking time. In addition to convenience items, res taurants, cafeterias, and home delivery services also sprang up in the wake of the major reconstruction of the


59 American public sphere; changes that would make att aining food more convenient. The wide acceptance of these new quicker, simpler f oods consisting of fewer courses, and less elaborate presentations requiring less tim e to prepare amounts to a reduction in the expected American culinary standards, someth ing which had become socially acceptable in the context of America undergoing a m assive shortage of skilled servants required to successfully throw family dinn ers, and dinner parties. Aiding in this reduction in the elaborateness of t he meal were the armies of domestic scientists and the New Nutritionists promo ting the scientific aspects of the meal, which redefined the middle-class’s lexicon in volving food, shifting the emphasis away from the sensorial qualities of the f ood to the numerically based nutritional values of the food. These trends were l ater amplified by two powerful forces, the Food Administration and processing food companies, which specifically intended to alter the eating habits of the American people to suit their respective needs. The Food Administration, expanded the lesson s of the New Nutritionists in public schools and got many Americans to limit thei r intake of meats, salt, and butter, which were necessary for the wartime efforts, and f ood processing conglomerations backed by hefty advertising investments, emphasized the useful, efficient, and practical nature of their products to time-starved women, while also using the teachings of the New Nutritionists as the basis for their absurd health claims. The Roaring 20’s On August 26, 1920, women were finally officially granted the right to vote. Douglas Bowers argues that this was, in part, becau se women had far more time to participate in the political sphere due to the prol iferation of time saving technologies


60 which allowed them to complete their domestic labor quicker. The average time women spent preparing food had gone from 44 hours a week to 29 hours within two decades. Bowers argues that it was the introduction of “better kitchen appliances and the availability of more processed foods have cut t he amount of time necessary to prepare food” (Bowers 2000: 23) which helped to “ma ke it possible for women to do more things outside the home” (Bowers, 23). Dougla s Bowers goes on to say that, “middle-class women, who had depended on servants t o do domestic work were especially glad for new technology because, by the 1920’s, servants were becoming harder to find as the status of that occupation dwi ndled” (Bowers 2000: 25). The 1920’s household appliances now included refrigerat ors to replace ice boxes, toasters, and electric mixers; pre-canned food and other mode rn day conveniences began gaining in popularity. These products were only ava ilable in areas with access to electricity, putting them into the realm of designe r items to be desired. However, this drastic decline in the amount of tim e spent cooking had at least as much to do with the lowered culinary expectation s which occurred as a result of the servant shortage as it does with technological advances in domestic appliances. Levenstein (2003:163) makes the argument that “cook ing occupied a much less important place in the life of the middle-class … i n the 1920s than in the 1890s, that preparation was much less elaborate and more rushed to allow more time for proliferating social activities outside the home.” Sporadic, hurried eating wasn’t appropriate for the households still able to acquir e the service of a cook who lived in the household; it was, however, well suited for the middle-class housewives lacking a domestic servant, who wanted to get on with their o wn leisure activities. By taking on


61 new roles outside of the home, women had to renegot iate their former roles as domestic laborers within the context of their famil y and the newly available activities that were also competing for their time. Since work ing women were still held to the same role expectations as when they worked solely i n the home, they needed a way to reduce the time they spent cooking. This was the tr ade off that many middle-class women often faced: quality of food versus the time it takes to create the food. Levenstein notes that “A 1926 Department of Commerc e survey showed an overwhelming preference among consumers for fresh r ather than canned goods in terms of flavor. Over half of those surveyed also b elieved that fresh products had higher food values. There was 100 percent agreement however, that canned goods were more convenient.”(Levenstein 2003:163) Even th ough most people preferred fresh food, and thought it was better for their hea lth, they chose pre-processed foods, which everyone agreed were convenient alternatives to fresh food. While most people expressed that processed, pre-packaged or pre-canne d foods weren’t as flavorful as home-cooked foods, this truth often went overlooked or left unmentioned amongst social circles because many middle-class families w ere able to relate to the problem of the servant shortage (Levenstein 2003:162). As expectations of the level of quality dining dec reased, so did the duration of the meal since there were fewer courses of food, an d so did the emphasis on the family always eating together in the household. Lev enstein argues that during the 1920s, these facets of the family meal “declined in the face of competing loyalties to peer groups and, more important, to the new leisure activities” (Levenstein 2003: 162). He goes on to argue that, “to ‘eat and run’ b ecame acceptable family behavior,


62 as did family members eating at different times to accommodate their other social obligations” (Levenstein 2003: 162), signaling the beginning of the decline in the duration and frequency of family meals in the face of other competing activities. Canned Food and the Proliferation of Convenience Fo od Until the 1920s canning food in the home was a wid ely utilized method for extending the shelf life of food, especially for lo wer class and immigrant populations in rural areas. Since many fresh fruits or vegetabl es weren’t available year round yet, and since canning was practical, it was one of the predominant methods used to ensure the availability of needed foodstuffs during the colder months of the year. However, as Ruth Cowan writes, “By the middle of th e 1920s home canning was becoming a lost art” (Cowan 1976) for two main reasons. The first reason had to do with changes in the production techniques of cans, which had previously been one of the more expensive components of canned food since they had to be made by hand. Once cans could be mass produced, pre-canned food q uickly became readily available to the public for lower prices. Furthermore, since the average wage of the working class was increasing, more households had extra dis posable income, to purchase things like pre-canned goods. Secondly, Levenstein (2003:163) argues that the “readiness to accept canned and other prepared food s normally represented a conscious lowering of culinary standards.” In order for large portions of Americans to purchase pre-canned food, it was necessary for them to abandon their emphasis on elaborate three-course meals first; if culinary sta ndards had remained high, canned and other pre-processed foods wouldn’t have grown i n popularity to the extent that it had.


63 Industrial canned foods are nonhuman delegates ai med at consumers who were pre-inscribed with a basic affinity and compet ence with regards to utilizing canned food; it was a product many families were in timately familiar with before it was introduced to the wide market. Canned food beca me a product marketed as a way to directly save domestic laborers time and effort by delegating the labor they would have done themselves outside of the home, and into the factory. In addition to being time saving, many advertisements made the claim tha t buying canned food from the factories was a healthier and safer alternative to home canning, and that these canned foods represented the pinnacle of modern day scienc e (Pollan 2008). This was especially important, given that many people worrie d about germs; the canning companies capitalized on these fears, and marketed their products as being safer from germs than their home-canned counterparts. Within one generation most Americans had stopped c anning food themselves(Cowan 1976:8), because the market had made it an economically viab le option to purchase canned food, meaning laborers wo uldn’t have to expend the effort to can the food themselves, thus saving them time. This method was increasingly popular because purchasing pre-canned food allowed Americans to sample a greater variety of food than they would have normally eaten had they canned the food themselves. Along with the practice of canning, whi ch diminished through nonuse, so went the skill and knowledge required to can; thus we see how nonhuman actants have again shifted out formerly common knowledge th rough the provision of a mechanism rendering this knowledge less immediately desirable or useful. As Bruno Latour (1988:301) writes, “Knowledge, morality, cra ft, force, sociability are not


64 properties of humans but of humans accompanied by their retinue of delegated characters.” Once the character of these delegated nonhumans changed, and the problem of food storage found a new solution which required less effort, the knowledge and practical skills accompanying these d elegated characters also changed. The acquisition of pre-canned goods saved time, but it came at the cost of an increased dependency upon readily acquirable foo d stuffs in off-seasons, establishing the patterns and routines that would l ater be used extensively for the preparation of everyday meals in a growing number o f situations. Furthermore, this shift away from canning fresh foods in the home mea nt that Americans would rely less on their local farmers for food, and more on l arge scale agri-businesses, whose location would become less important, and whose pro duct safety and accountability standards became less of a local, personalized matt er, and more of a national matter. Prohibition and the Rise of American Restaurants In the 1920s restaurants and other entrepreneurial food-based organizations located in the public sphere began catering to the entire family for the first time. Before prohibition, which seriously undermined the viability of many established saloons and other enterprises in the public sphere, eating in a public location outside of the home was an activity primarily dominated by men. Once alcohol was banned from these venues, thus clearing the unsavory eleme nts from public dining, it became acceptable for women to frequently eat in these loc ations. Since prohibition banned all alcohol, wine could no longer be used in French style cuisine, and this specific style of elaborate cooking declined. Elaborate Fren ch cuisine was popular in restaurants and hotels in America, the places which had largely controlled the market


65 for out-of-home dining in America, alongside of the saloons. Since restaurants and hotels generally relied upon bars for most of their profits, they were able to serve large portions of food made with good ingredients a t, or below costs as a way to attract people who would also purchase alcohol (Lev enstein 2003:184). Once their bars had to closed, restaurants were forced to eith er change their ways, or were forced to shut down. Similarly, saloons offered other lunc h venues stiff competition because they often offered free lunch with the purchase of alcohol. Thus, while prohibition “helped to destroy the higher echelon of the restau rant industry, it also helped spur a tremendous expansion in the levels below, particula rly among those catering to the middle and lower-middle-classes of both sexes.”(Lev enstein 2003: 185) In the years closely following prohibition, the number of restau rants in the country tripled (Levenstein 2003:185) as smaller, quicker lunch cou nters, and sanitary-looking cafeterias opened to fill new niches being created by new social patterns in urban areas. Since the cities were still expanding rapidly, and lunch hours were short, going home for lunch ceased to be feasible for many workers. Since hot lunches were still expected and lunch pails were too working-cla ss (Levenstein 2003:185), many restaurants began catering “to the growing class of male and female clerical workers, and eating out had developed into a leisure-time ac tivity for the entire family.” (Cinotto 2006:27) As French cuisine went out of vog ue, new restaurants began adopting the dietetic ideas of the New Nutrition th at were still popular, often putting gimmicks or dcor above the quality and taste of fo od (Levenstein 2003:190). The successful restaurants were the ones which adopted lighter fare, often printing the


66 calorie-count on their menus (Levenstein 2003:198). In most restaurants, cooks were no longer expected to turn out something superior t o what Americans could produce in their home, instead they provided respite for wo men from the duties of food preparation, and gave them an opportunity to enjoy the meal, and socialize freely with their family. These restaurants continued to thrive as they encouraged the trend towards lighter simpler foods, and continued to gai n in popularity in urban areas until Black Tuesday reigned in the Great depression in 19 29, making disposable income extremely hard to come by. From the 1920s and beyond, many of the trends that began influencing the food system in the middle of the 19th century continued grow and mature over time, affecting the habits and relationships of Americans more-so as time goes on. The major changes to family dinner were due to: changes to family demographics, including smaller families and dual-employed parent s, the continual proliferation of technologies meant to shorten domestic labor time, the proliferation of communications and transportation grids, the contin ued institutionalization of the ideal family life and role segregation in public sc hools, the continued prevalence and emphasis on nutrition education. Fast Food for a Fast Life Americans are spending an increasingly large porti on of their income on acquiring food prepared outside of the home, a tren d which began in the 1920s. Since that time it has become a major source of caloric i ntake for many Americans. Between 1992 and 2002, after accounting for inflati on, annual expenditures on awayfrom-home purchases of food increased by 23%, to a total of $415 billion (Stewart,


67 Blisard, Bhuyan, Nayga 2004:3). Restaurants, proces sing companies, fast food venues, and take-out or delivery restaurants have a ll become an integral part of the American food system, and have since come to be jus t another facet of Americans’ feeding habits. Almost half of the money spent on f ood goes to restaurants, and other foodservice facilities (Stewart, Blisard, Bhuyan, N ayga 2004:1; Guthrie, Lin, Frazao 2002:141). As the transportation infrastructure has increased around the world, many nation-wide food conglomerates became international companies, expanding their market to almost every corner of the world. The num ber of foodservice establishments has nearly doubled over the past 30 years, from 491,000 in 1972 to 878,000 in 2004 (FDA 2006). According to agricultur al economist Mark Jekanowski (1999), the primary motivations behind the spread a nd high density of fast food restaurants are the fact that store openings stimul ate additional demand for fast food, and having large quantities of fast food restaurant s in local areas ensures that consumers will not have to travel far for food, inc reasing their disposition to eat fast foods. Furthermore, fast food restaurants are incre asingly common sites in stores11, allowing consumers to combine eating with other act ivities, such as retail shopping, work, or travel. The spread and dominance of fast food restaurants and processed food companies, in addition to the extent food companies have vertically integrated over time is nothing short of astonishing. According to Carolyn Steel (2009), 80% of the food traded in the world is owned by just five corp orations. As vertical integration 11 “McDonald's currently has outlets inside nearly 700 (out of 2,374) Wal-Mart stores across the United States, and almost 200 outlets in Chevron an d Amoco service stations.” (Jakenowski 1999:11)


68 intensifies, corporations become able to exert even greater control over food systems. For example, McDonalds introduced Chicken McNuggets in 1983, and within just one year, McDonalds had become the “world’s second largest purveyor of chicken” (Jekanowski 1999:13). The extreme demand that these processing food conglomerates can exert on the surrounding environm ent, through getting farmers to grow the specific inputs they desire, can result in extremely homogenized outputs from farms, often resulting in a loss of biodiversi ty from the local environment (Pollan 2008). As Americans are gravitating towards eating food p repared outside of the home, their preparation and consumption habits are also changing inside the home. For example, the consumption of commercially prepar ed meals has risen to the extent that, by 1987, only 28% of the population reported consuming no commercially prepared meals per week (Kant, Barry, and Graubard 2004:246). By the year 2000, just under a quarter of Americans went a full week without eating commercially prepared food, and more than 40% of Americans consu me three or more such meals per week in 2000, up from 36% in 1987 (Kant, Barry, Graubard 2004:247). The consumption of frozen food is also on the rise. Acc ording to a report from NPD, a market research organization, “The average American ate a frozen meal option about six times each month or 74 times during the period of March 2000 through February 2001, a 33 percent increase since 1992” (2002:1). When an individual chooses to consume convenience products, they do so in lieu of eating natural healthier foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains (Jekanowski 1999; Neumark-Sztainer, Hannan, Story, Croll, Perry 2003) because


69 convenience foods, especially commercially processe d foods, are used as a substitute for other types of food. According to a 2006 public ation from the NPD group (2006:2), a consumer market research organization t hat has specialized in documenting the eating trends of Americans for deca des, even though 92% of Americans agreed that it is important to eat fresh foods, less than half of the food served during mealtimes included one or more fresh products, marking a slow but steady decline from 56% in 1985. Additionally, the number of meals cooked completely from scratch fell by 6.1% and the number of meals with at least one side dish fell by 10% between 1991 and 2002 (NPD 2002). A high availability of convenience foods, which ha ve become tailored to everybody’s individualized desires or needs due to an immense diversity of options to choose from, has destabilized the temporal mechanis m that prompted the synchronization of peoples eating habits. Recent st udies have found that “under half (46%) of consumers usually plan their meals in adva nce”12 (NPD 2007), a practice made possible through the proliferation of personal automobiles making it far easier to drive to the store and purchase whatever is need ed for the meal. The convenience of a food product is now ‘very important’ according to 55% of the respondents in a US survey from 2001 (Senaur 2001:56). It should be no surprise then, to find out that preparation time has declined from 44 hours per wee k in 1900 (Bowers 2000), to 3.15 hours a week in 2004 (Pollan 2009). As Americans are purchasing greater quantities of processed foods, and go out to eat more often, they purchase lower quantities o f fresh food and cease cooking entirely from scratch. Furthermore, a decrease in the number of side dishes indicates 12 By ‘advance’ they mean more than a single day in a dvance.


70 the general disposition towards saving time through simplifying the meal even more so, echoing the practices beginning in the 1920s. F or the NPD’s 21st Annual Eating Patterns in America (NPD, Balzer 2004 ) report, 50,000 primary meal preparers were asked why they prepared the dish they made for dinn er. The top five responses were as follows (NPD, Balzer 2004:2): 53% said that the dish required little effort or was easy to make, 50% of the respondents said that it t ook little-to-no planning, 39% said that it was made with foods that were on-hand at th e time, 35% said that they made it because they knew everyone would like it, and 34% s aid that they made the dish because it was easily cleaned up. It should not be much of a surprise then, to find out that the sandwich was the number one dish served fo r dinner in America in 2002 (NPD, Balzer 2004:2).


71 Chapter IV: Case Study Using the data collected during the interviews in conjunction with existing literature pertinent to the issue, and building off of the history of American’s food system, this section will explore the factors influ encing the frequency and characteristics of family dinners in America in ord er to reveal an accurate representation of the status of American meals and the family’s role in facilitating these meals. Participant Selection & Recruitment The participants in this study are all adults occu pying the role of primary caretakers and legal guardians for at least one min or. At least one of their minors was currently enrolled in school; kindergarten through twelfth grade. All participants are geographically located around the Sarasota/Bradento n area in order to control for geographic differences. Since the family is an inst itution with a wide variety of shapes, I limited my participant pool to adults wit h children, focusing on the participant’s legal responsibility of a minor rathe r than marital status, sexual orientation, biological relationship, etc. The pres ence of minors in the household is important for this study, because existing literatu re on the subject indicates that the presence or absence of minors in a household radica lly changes the form, regularity, meaning, socialization, habits, preparation time an d planning aspects of family life (Grignon 2001). Families with minors were chosen t o be the object of study because every participant will be experiencing similar life style constraints and boons associated with child rearing. This study examines the causes underlying the factors that influence the frequency of family dinners; the presence of minors in a household


72 complicates daily routines (Godbey and Robinson 199 8), as they can demand a significant portion of their legal guardian’s time. In other studies, a perceived lack of time has been a widely reported reason why families do not eat together. I selected the participant population that is predisposed to s imilar time constraints. Recruitment occurred through referrals, the snowba ll sampling method, and through flyers posted around Sarasota and Bradenton Interviews mostly took place in the participants’ homes. The consent form at the be ginning of the survey informs participants of the minimal risk, and encourages th em not to participate if they feel uncomfortable answering any of the questions. I min imized risks by avoiding questions regarding a subject’s body mass index (BM I), and by avoiding any questions regarding eating disorders. If the topic of weight, BMI, or eating disorders was brought up at any time, it was from the partici pant’s own initiative, and no follow up questions were asked on the subject. The confide ntiality protocol for this study was approved by New College’s Institutional Review Board. The Interviews Before beginning the interview portion of my resea rch, two pilot interviews were conducted. The participants in these interview s met the same inclusion criteria as those in the actual research, with the exception that they resided in the Saint Petersburg, FL area. These pilot interviews were us ed to ensure proper form of questions, and to identify and correct any problems with the interview process. The first pilot interview elicited extremely standardiz ed responses to the questions I asked, resulting in a ‘yes or no’ answer, and minimal subs equent prompting for additional information. For the second interview, I changed th e basic format of the questions to make them more open ended, as a way of deterring pe ople from simply answering yes


73 or no. By the end of the second pilot interview, th e responses were far more fluid, and so I continued to use these questions for the Saras ota/Bradenton interviews. Many of the questions asked in the actual intervie ws were partly informed by previous research on the subject, but the interview was not limited to those specific areas, as the project’s semi-structured format allo wed for accommodation to new insights and new directions for questioning. A tent ative list of questions was compiled before each interview, with the foreknowle dge that deviations from this set of questions were going to occur in order to explor e the most relevant factors influencing the frequency of the participant’s fami ly’s dinners. In the months following the pilot interviews, nine interviews were completed with a duration falling between eighteen and thirty -two minutes, and averaging twenty-four minutes. Six of the participants were w omen and three were men, six identified themselves as Caucasian, two participant s identified themselves as being African American, and one identified as Native Amer ican. The population group included three stay-at-home parents, including one parent that home schooled two out of three of her children, three single parent famil ies working full-time jobs, and four dual-working, full-time parent families. Six of the participants were married, two were divorced, and one was a widower. The participa nts had between one and five children, and the participant population averaged t wo and a half children per family. Themes The themes for the interview data emerged from the responses received during the interviews, and were shaped by topics from the literature review. These themes are: The Social Construction of Family Dinner, Age, Scheduling & Role Conflicts,


74 and Rush. The theme for Social Construction of Fami ly Dinner covers the many ways in which participants use various tactics and routi nes to generate the structure of their dinner ritual, whether or not they approach dinners as being either formal or informal, what they use dinner time for and how much importan ce they perceive this time as having. Preparing Dinner was almost made into a dif ferent theme, but it fit better as an extension of the ways in which participants cons tructed their family dinner in practice. The theme for age addresses the changes f amilies undergo as the children grow older, giving them more responsibilities and m ore activities which they can spend time doing. Scheduling and Role Conflicts cov ered the topics of how regularly scheduling conflicts occurred, why they occurred, a nd how these conflicts were negotiated. A sense of ‘Rush,’ which is characteriz ed by the schema that an individual does not have the required time needed t o perform their domestic duties, was created as a theme because time constraints wer e, in one way or another, listed the most frequently in various academic studies as being one of the main factors decreasing the frequency of family meals. The Frequency of Family Dinners in America Before addressing the specific factors influencing the frequency of American family dinners, this section will precede with an e xamination of the existing quantitative studies dealing specifically with the frequency of family dinners in America. This information will be useful for gainin g a better understanding of the recent historical trends regarding the frequency of family meals, and will help situate current commensal practices in reference to the sim ilar practices of families during preceding decades, allowing for contemporary family life to be examined in finer


75 detail. Most of the studies analyzing the frequency that American families have dinner together have reported a significant decline in frequency over time (Gillman, Rifashiman, Frazier, et el, 2000; Nicklas Morales, Linares, Yang, Baranokski 2004; Birnbaum, Lytle, Murray, Story, 20 03; Eisenberg, Marla, Olson, Neumark-Sztainer, Bearinger, 2004; NeumarkSztainer, Hannan, Story, Croll, Perry 2003). While these studies all noted a genera l decline in the frequency of family meals over time, they also found that most families are still having dinner together multiple times a week. With this said, not all stud ies agree that dinner frequencies are still declining significantly. An eleven year study cond ucted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia Univer sity (CASA 2008) has argued that the average frequency of family dinners have, for the most part, plateaued during the beginning of the 21st century, neither increasi ng nor decreasing in frequency for the better part of this decade. In the research paper, “Children’s Meal Patterns Have Changed over a 21Year Period: The Bogalusa Heart Study” (Niklas, Mor ales, Linares, Yang, Baranokski, de Moor, Berenson 2004:753) researchers conducted dietary intake surveys from 1,584 fifth graders, between the years 1973 to 1994. They found that during this time, the percentage of children that f requently consumed dinner at home with their families decreased from 89% to 75%. Freq uent family dinners are dinners which occur four or more times per week. The author s of this study also found that during this same period, the number of eating episo des per day (that is, the number of times the children consumed food during the day) si gnificantly decreased from 6.6 to 5.2 (Niklas et al 2004:753). The decreased amount o f time that families spent eating


76 together is indicative of having fewer total family dinners, as well as having shorter dinner times as a result of individuals quickening their eating pace, or that they were eating less food. Beginning in the 1860s and contin uing until the early 1920s, shortly after the proliferation of family dinners, the phra se prominently used to describe them was the ‘Dinner Hour’ (Gillis 1996:91), which was t he time when many American families and most middle-class families would spend eating dinner together. This duration of family dinners has since declined, due to an increased prevalence of hurried eating, and the shrinking size of the famil y (Redd, de Castro 1992). The participants in my study reported having dinners wh ich last, on average, about 25 minutes with a low of 15, a high of 45, and a mean of 24. There was no correlation between the duration of family meals and the freque ncy of family meals amongst my participants. In “Reclaiming the Family Table”, Fe ise and Schwartz (2008) reported similar findings, that family dinners last about 20 minutes on average. While family meals may still be fairly frequent activities, they do not last as long as they once did, indicating a general acceleration of the pace of th e meal in exchange for more time in other activities. The study “Family Meal Patterns: Associations with Sociodemographic Characteristics and Improved Dietary Intake Among A dolescents” (NeumarkSztainer et al 2003) conducted surveys using a part icipant population of 4,746 minors enrolled in 31 pubic middle schools and high-school s. This study found that on average, 14% of their participants never had family dinners, 19% had dinners with their families 1-2 times a week, 40% had dinners wi th their families 3-6 times, and that 26% had 7 or more meals with their family (Neu mark-Sztainer et al 2003). The


77 frequency of these family dinners were gathered in conjunction with the population demographics of their participants, and Neumark-Szt ainer et al found that: girls were more likely to miss family dinners than boys, that middle school students (77.2 %) were far more likely to have frequent family dinner than high school students (61.5%), and that the mean frequency of family dinn ers was highest in the households with a stay-at-home parent, and were lowest in hous eholds where all parents were working full time (Neumark-Sztainer et al 2003:320) The study “Associations between Perceived Family M eal Environment and Parent Intake of Fruit, Vegetables, and Fat”, which was also conducted in 2003, utilized a convenience sample of 277 adult particip ants and found that 11.2% of participants never had family meals, that 29.6% of participants ate with their families 1-3 times, and that 59.2% of participants ‘frequent ly’ (4 or more nights a week) had dinner with their families (Boutelle, Birnbaum, Lyt le, Murray, and Story, 2006). The slight discrepancy between the findings of the two studies, especially the category dealing with families having zero dinners together per week could have a lot to do with the two participant pools occupying different demographic groups. With the data provided, it is apparent that the participant popul ation in the Family Meal Patterns study is composed of families with minors enrolled in both high school and middle school, where as Boutelle et al’s (2006) study only used families with middle school children. As it will be demonstrated later in full, age is one of the factors closely tied to the frequencies of family dinners; the older the child gets, the less predisposed they are to eat family meals. Furthermore, the participa nts in the “Family Meal Patterns” study were of a lower socioeconomic status. While S ES is not enough to predict the


78 frequency of family dinners in itself, higher SES t ends to be associated positively with increased frequencies of family meals (Neumark -Sztainer et al 2003:320). These contemporary studies on the eating habits of Americans depict a general decline in the frequency that families have meals together. When looking specifically at ‘frequent family meals,’ or four or more dinners together per week, the numbers have dropped from 89% in 1974 to 55.7% in 2 005 (Fulkerson, NeumarkSztainer, Story M, 2006). When using the same defin ition as the other studies for ‘frequent’ family dinners,13 55.6% of the participa nts in this study (5 out of 9) had frequent family meals. These findings indicate cont inuity in the trend between the participants of this study and findings from other studies measuring the frequency of family dinners. However, for easier analysis, my s tudy broke the frequency of my participants’ family dinners into three categories: Low Frequency (0-2 meals per week), Medium Frequency (3-4), and High Frequency ( 5-7). Three participants (33%) had low frequency family dinners, two had medium fr equency family dinners (22%), and four (44%) had High Frequency family dinners. The statistics from my study in conjunction with t he frequencies cited in other studies present the average frequency that American s have dinner together with their families on a weekly basis. Knowing the average fre quency of family dinners can be a telling component of American family life since “ there is no other daily activity that families share as a group that is practiced with su ch regularity” (Feise & Schwartz 2008:3). With this in mind, these statistics have l imitations in regards to what they can say about contemporary American family life, si nce they may not accurately represent the frequency of family dinners amongst s pecific subsets of people. 13 ‘Frequent’ meant four or more family dinners per w eek in the other studies listed.


79 Statistical analysis may lead to over-generalized c onclusions about the condition of family life, specifically bringing up the question “Why do family dinners appear to be declining in frequency?” without providing the basi s for a conclusive answer. These generalized statistics are intended to reveal the t rends pertaining to the average frequencies of American dinners, but as we were beg inning to see, the statistics compiled by examining survey information can be com plicated by extraneous factors that go largely unnoticed when researchers utilize the survey approach, potentially affecting and biasing the results of the study. The semi-structured interview format allowed for a n in-depth investigation into the specific practices and ideologies that the participants of my study used in order to construct their family dinners. This forma t was chosen over surveys or structured interviews because standardizing questio ns about the ways families construct their dinner ritual would be extremely cu mbersome, and would likely result in the loss of many of the finer nuisances and deta ils which go into the construction and the practices which construct family life. Gill is (1996:91) argues that approaching the topic of family dinners from a qualitative stan dpoint may be better than a quantitative approach because “family meals, holida ys, and vacations are so much a part of modern mythology that we have great difficu lty approaching them with any objectivity… when we reduce such things to facts an d numbers, we lost (sic) sight of their meaning and function in modern family life.” This semi-structured interview allowed for an investigation into the specific habi ts of family members in regards to family dinners, leaving space open for respondents to raise issues the researcher could not have anticipated as being relevant. The result s of these interviews were utilized


80 in conjunction with relevant academic works to comp rehensively present the factors influencing the frequency of family meals. The Factors Influencing the Frequency of Family Mea ls: The Social Construction of Dinner Now that the average frequency of family dinners h as been discussed, the factors that influence these variables will be anal yzed. The first theme that will be analyzed in relation to its effect on the frequency of family dinners is how the participants ideologically constructed their family dinners. The first part of this theme will look at the level of importance participants p lace on the social elements of the meal, visible in the way participants talked about their family dinners, and through an investigation of the tactics and strategies used in order to engender a greater frequency of family dinners. The underlying princip le of the theme stems from the train of thought there must be a baseline level of desirability in order for the dinner ritual to continue being practiced. If a person doe s aspire to more frequent family dinners, and they establish and pattern the routine s and habits necessary to enforce and reinforce the conditions which make the structu re of the dinners visible to their family, the frequency of family dinners will likely be higher than families who do not desire sharing meals, or do not routinize their fam ily commensal patterns. Three participants in my study were placed in the Low Frequency family dinner category, and two of these three participant s, Jim and Susan, were the only participants in the study to place little-to-no ver bal emphasis on sharing frequent meals with their families during the interview. Jim a stay-at-home father, placed such a low emphasis on family dinners in his household t hat it was the most salient factor


81 deciding the infrequency of his family’s shared mea ls. Even though Jim personally prepared a meal for his two kids every day14, one that was generally comprised of fresh foods, his whole family did not sit down toge ther to eat very often. Ron: What does dinner time mean to you? Jim : I try to feed the wife and kids, you know? We don ’t try to make it more than that. I think family dinners are a goo d idea, but I don’t think they’re practical for most people. Ron : Does your family usually eat at the same place ev ery night? Jim : Yep. Well, the kids eat at the table. Their mom f loats between the table and the living room. I usually sit in fro nt of the TV and eat... It’s just a quiet minute for me, because I’v e had em’ for like, three hours straight. And, and, and, I guess it’s s elfish. But it’s just relaxing for me. It’s an old habit I’ve had since b efore I had kids, and maybe it’s hard for me to break. Ron: When did you start moving away from the table? Jim : I did it (ate at the table) for like, the first t wo or three years, and then I started slacking and moving farther away fro m the table. And now she kind of comes to the living room with me, a nd floats between the kids and me. Instead of utilizing dinner as a time to spend wit h his family, Jim used the dinner table to anchor his two younger kids in a si ngle location, so that he could have a few quiet minutes to himself or have a few minute s alone with his wife, who works a fulltime job. From the couch in front of the TV w here Jim eats, he is able to see and hear his kids, and claims that he is close enough t hat he can mediate conflicts between his children, or get them whatever they need during the meal. Even though Jim is within a close enough distance to his kids to super vise them, he and his wife aren’t often in close enough physical proximity for his ki ds to receive the benefits of the ritual (Collins 2004). While commensal characterist ics were not a part of Jim’s average dinner, he indicated during the interview t hat he was very satisfied with the amount of time he spends with his kids. 14 Preparing a meal for dinner is a very important co mponent shaping the context and characteristics of dinnertime, and it is the preparation stage which i nfluences peoples’ choice to eat outside their home


82 Ron: About how much time, per week, do you get to spend with your children face to face? Jim : It’s pretty high. I mean, me personally, I guess I have three hours a day away from family members total, when my daughter is in preschool. Yeah… I could use a break. I used to feel guilty about it, I don’t anymore. But I’m more honest to myself about it. It’s ok to want a break from them. I still love em’. (laughs) Jim’s belief that he spends more than an adequate amount of time with his children is reflected in the way he constructs his household’s dinner practices, something that also held true for the other partici pants. Jim does not place much emphasis on the social aspect of family meals, beca use he does not think that he needs to use dinner as a means to be social with hi s children, because he feels that he spends more than enough time with his children. Sus an was the other participant to place little emphasis on the importance of dinner, and also had Low Frequency family dinners. She home schools two of her three children and works part time at a high school three days a week. Susan’s feelings towards having family dinners were strongly influenced by experiences from her childho od. She said that dinners are “truly supposed to be a time where we can all sit down together, rather than something that we have to do. When I grew up, you had to have dinner at 5 o’clock every day. And we’re just not like that.” Susan went on to say that “If they (her kids) want to eat just to ea t, they grab a hot pocket and run out the door.” Similar to Jim, Susan feels like she get s to spend an adequate amount of time with her kids since she home-schools them. How ever, unlike Jim, who chooses not to share the social elements of family dinners, Susan characterizes her family meals as often being consumed “on the run” and said that dinner with her family “happens when the week looks like it can handle it. ” Susan attributes her family’s


83 infrequent family dinners to ‘diverse schedules,’ n amely her three sons’ part time jobs. Since Susan makes a big point of creating a v ery “come and go as you please” family dinner environment, and her teenage sons hav e other activities available for their entertainment, their family only shares one d inner together per week. Regardless of the individual reason resulting in th eir infrequent family meals, both participants were very satisfied with the amount of time they get to spend with their children, so maintaining frequent social family din ners was less of a priority. As we can see from this interview data, the emphas is that a participant places on having frequent family meals can influence the f requency of the event. In “Adolescent and Parent Views of Family Meals” (Fulk erson, Neumark-Sztainer, Story 2006:529), researchers found a direct correla tion between positive perceptions participants had about the importance of dinner and how frequently they occurred. This correlation between positive perception of fam ily dinners and their frequency was later demonstrated by other researchers (Larson Nelson, Dianne, Story, Hannan 2009:75). Many of the participants which frequently shared dinner with their family were the ones that placed a lot of emphasis on maki ng family meals a priority. Janice, a mother of five children and one of the participan ts with the highest frequency of family dinners said, “My husband and I place a lot of importance on eating together, because we grew up in large families, and we ate to gether as a family. So we try to do that as well. We understand the importance of eatin g together.” For Janice, frequent family dinners are important because it provides the setting, through which she can simultaneously ensur e that the six other people in her family are fed, and converse and bond with her fami ly. Janice goes on to say that,


84 “My little ones love talking to their older brother s. They are their heroes. You know what I mean? And since the little ones don’t get a lot of chances to talk to their older brothers during the day because, you know, they’re busy with school and work. So I try and make sure that my whole family has some opportunity to get together.” In addition to just parent-child interactions, family dinners provided her family a supervised area where her children would also be ab le to communicate with one another, something which Janice affirms is importan t to her. Six out of the nine participants similarly agreed that they place a gre at deal of emphasis on the importance of family dinners when they talked with their children. As the results of this study indicates, and many other studies substa ntiate, a majority of adolescents and most parents report that eating a meal together as a family is important to them (Sobal, Nelson 2003; Fulkerson et al 2006; Larson, Nelson, Dianne, Story, Hannan 2009). Going beyond the participant’s verbal agreement th at they place a lot of importance on facilitating family meals, the partic ipants who expressed interest in family meals often cultivated and repeated certain strategies of action with the intent to ensure more frequent dinners. The strategies tha t were similar amongst multiple participants were: the creation of cultural objects linking food with family, socializing their family in such a way that emphasizes an affin ity or providing the skills necessary to proficiently prepare food, and maintai ning stable meal structure over time. The first strategy to be analyzed was the cre ation of cultural objects with the intention of linking food and family was utilized b y two participants, Claire and Alice, both created family recipe books with their children, and intend on making


85 copies for each of their children when they move ou t of the house. Recipe books are cultural objects that can be imbued with sentiments fond memories, and the values they associate with past family interactions. These cultural objects have the potential to temporarily embody the collective effervescence and emotional entertainment from a successful ritual, which allows these feelings an d set of dispositions to be prolonged over time. Since rituals need to be repeated in ord er for these sentiments to be prolonged, they also provide incentive to repeat th e rituals in the future (Collins 2004). Alice received her cookbook from her mother after her family’s house burnt down, and works with a different child individually every week, to make a new entree to go into the recipe book. Alice uses her r ecipe book to teach her children how to cook, which also helps to get them into the habi t of writing down the recipes for the meals they enjoyed making. Claire started making the recipe book when her son s were babies, and she filled them with the foods that her children enjoye d while they were growing up. Each entry in the recipe book was accompanied by “l ittle doodles my sons (sic) would do when they were toddlers” or next to symbol s of their accomplishments, like “medals and certificates of achievement… so my kids have something to remember their childhood by”. While Claire went a little fur ther than Alice, literally making the connection between family history and food, both Al ice and Claire’s cookbooks serve the similar purpose of solidifying the relationship that exists between food and its positive influence on the formation and retention o f memories (Sutton 2001). These cookbooks represent one such set of strategies and practices utilized by the parents of families attempting to create a structured environm ent for the family dinner ritual.


86 For both Claire and Alice, cooking is an integral part of their daily routine, and giving cookbooks to their kids are both practic al ways to ensure that their kids have access to recipes for healthy food after they move out of the house, and as sentimental reminders of both childhood and family. In addition to linking food with family history by extending culinary knowledge acro ss multiple generations, recipe books are also resources which can increase the pro ficiency with which an individual can prepare food, as the interviews revealed were i mportant factors influencing the frequency of family meals. With no exception, all of the participants with high frequency family meals indicated either that they g ot a lot of enjoyment out of cooking, or that they had prior training in food co oking, either in the form of cooking classes or from preparing food for a living at some point in their lives. In practice, enjoying the preparation of food mani fested in participants: growing their own fruits vegetables and spices, for personal consumption (e.g. “We just started a little garden, my daughters started with herbs and tomatoes”), frequently going shopping for food (e.g. “we probably shop 4-5 times a week. We like fresh food” ), frequently spending multiple hours per day cooking, making extensive use of cookbooks (e.g. “I’ve got ridiculous amounts of coo kbooks at home because of where I grew up”) or frequently watching cooking shows (e .g. “I love watching cooking shows”), and by not going out to eat very often. Wh en participants layered culinary practices into their weekly routines, it became inc reasingly likely that they would have frequent family dinners than participants who were either not proficient or did not like cooking.


87 Interaction ritual theory would argue that prepari ng dinner is a ritual situation in itself, one that is different from the dinner ri tual, but influences the dinner ritual because it is part of the same interaction chain. T his means that the person preparing the meal gets influenced by the preparation situati on; if a person is fond of preparing food or is proficient at preparing the food they wi ll likely continue to try to prepare their own food in the future. Having food preparati on situations embedded in a person’s daily or weekly routine as a primary oblig ation increases the likelihood that individuals will utilize pre-processed foods, get f ast food, or go out to restaurants. Alice, the participant with the highest frequency f amily dinners, provides a good example of the way in which preparation time and di nner time are different situations with different expectations that fluidly change as the participants move from one situation to the next. Alice: “I love to cook, and I love to bake. So I’ve always tried to make cooking something that was fun. But sometimes, things get a little busy. I don’t like being rushed, so I try to start dinner time a little bit before we sit down to eat, since the kid s like to help cook and get things ready, like set the table. So a lot of the social time is before we sit down. They all three have so much tha t they want to tell me, that I try to spread it out over time, so they all get a chance to speak their peace. I try to at least get one or two of them in there to help me off and on so that I can hear a little bit about their day, and they’re not all trying to talk at once when we sit down.” Alice’s situation presents a good example of the wa ys in which people move from one situation to the next, carrying the symbols and dispositions from the previous situation with them as they enter into a new situat ion. Instead of looking at preparing dinner as being the same situation as dinner, consi der the proposal that preparing dinner is a different situation than dinner itself, with the ability to influence future dispositions and sentiments subsequently impacting the shape and energy of the dinner ritual. Alice says that she tries to make co oking fun, indicating that she


88 believes making the activity entertaining will make her more willing to do the task in the future. When Alice feels rushed for time, somet hing which can impacts the byproducts of the dinner preparation she brings her children into the situation so that they can all get their chance for one-on-one time, which Alice claims to help facilitate smoother dinner conversation later. Individuals may, for example, like having family d inners, but not put in the effort to facilitate them frequently because they d islike preparing food to the extent that the preparation situation creates negative fee lings, which according to Collins’s Interaction Ritual theory, would impact the outcome of the dinner ritual. This would make the dinner ritual less appealing to the partic ipant having to prepare the food, as well as to the other members of the family who may pick up on these negative emotions15. This would also likely occur if a person feels in timidated by the task of cooking because they believe that they lack the ski lls necessary to prepare a meal considered to be satisfactory by others(e.g. “I mea n, I haven’t killed anyone yet, but no… I’m not a good cook at all.”). In the latter ca se, these individuals may increase their reliance upon convenience items. The type, qu antity, and quality of the food served during dinner communicate to the group a set of meanings containing the expectations pertaining to the dinner situation. Di nner served from a McDonald’s bag, while the family is in the car hurrying to get somewhere communicates a very different set of expectations for the family than w ould a multiple course meal, served on fine china. After a while, certain foods become symbols associated with certain situations after repeated interactions with others, so if individuals tend to utilize convenience products when they are rushed, these ha sty sentiments attached to the 15 Collins argues that emotions get transferred accor ding to ‘emotional contagion.’(pg 78)


89 food will be prolonged, and future interactions wit h these foods will begin taking on these characteristics. Since the symbolic meaning o f food gets created through repeated interactions with others also eating said food, and since convenience food tends to be used most often as a time saving mechan ism, convenience food communicates and reinforces sentiments of hurry, po tentially decreasing the duration of the meal. Convenience foods are commonly associated with bei ng sub-par, or inferior to authentic, home-made, ‘from scratch’ foods. Results from a series of qualitative interviews conducted by Laura Falk, Carole Bisogni, and Jeffrey Sobal (1996) led to their conclusion that a lack of attention, time and effort on food choice and preparation leads people to devote less attention t o sharing a meal. Less emphasis gets placed on eating together when the meal gets m ade up of convenience foods as they mitigate the symbolic value of the dinner ritu al, by being unhealthy simulacra of food, otherwise known as ‘food-like substances’ (Po llan 2008), which require little effort to make edible. An individual spending four hours cooking dinner will also be far more likely to insist that everybody enjoys the meal together, than somebody who threw a few TV dinners in the microwave for two-tofive minutes. While family members may place a great deal of emphasis on eatin g together as a family unit, convenience foods undercut some of the appreciation of the completed meal, potentially lowering the expectations and excitemen t surrounding a meal. Three participants in this study either reported that they either disliked cooking or that they weren’t skilled at preparing f ood. Of the three participants lacking the skill or desire to cook, two had low fr equency family meals, and one had


90 medium frequency family meals. Susan, one of the pa rticipants in low frequency dinner category who didn’t like cooking, claimed th at “If it wasn’t for the cost, we would eat out every night.” Steve, a single father of a teenage boy, averages 2 to 3 dinners per week with his son, and shared similar s entiments to Susan regarding cooking. Ron: Are there any instances where you are more likely to go out to eat? Steve: Um, I don’t really like to cook, and my son really doesn’t like it when I cook, so I’ll use almost any excuse to go out for a bite. But I guess we go out most when I’m tired, like after g etting home from work kinda late. Ron: What do you find attractive about going out to eat ? Steve: Going out to eat means less work for me. And you k now, it lets me spend some time with my son, and um, it giv es us the chance to do fun little things together, like people watch I guess… I just like going out to eat because we get to take our time, a nd the whole thing just lasts a little longer. We eat slower, and I th ink we actually talk a little more. Steve indicated that he doesn’t like cooking, and t hat he’ll avoid being in that situation whenever he can. For Steve’s family, home cooked dinners were rare, and his reliance on going out to eat was high. Even tho ugh his work directly interferes with his facilitation of family dinners most days o f the week, his inability to cook to his son’s liking, and his dislike for cooking in ge neral made it such that he rarely integrated cooking plans into his daily routine. In stead, he and his son spend time together doing other activities, which provides dif ferent symbolic meaning than inhome family dinners, better suited to their family’ s desires. For the participants in my study, willingness or the ability to cook well was positively associated with high frequency family meals. Another way that participants constructed dinner t ime was to maintain the ritual’s structure by continually emphasizing and e nforcing a consistent time, place, and dining etiquette. In the article “Adolescent an d Parent Views of Family Meals”,


91 Fulkerson et al (2006) found that the families whic h consistently maintained a strict meal structure, such as a consistent time, place, a nd set of expectations, were significantly more likely to have frequent family m eals than the families that were less adamant about maintaining regular meal structu re. All of the participants in this study who had high frequency family dinners also es tablished a mechanism that communicated the time and place they would eat dinn er that evening. This mechanism for insuring family meals came in the for m of using dry erase boards, emails, discussion during car rides or having dinne r the same time every night. The structure of the dinner ritual emerges through repe ated localized interactions between family members, making it more likely that the situ ation would become an integral part of their daily routine. Excess variations in t he structure of the ritual will decrease the likelihood of frequent family meals occurring i n the future, because it makes scheduling dinner a far more difficult task. Moreov er, all three participants who felt unhappy about the amount of time they get to spend with their children lacked a consistent pattern regarding the time of the meal, and two of the three lacked a consistent place. When the structure of family dinners allows for co mpeting definitions of the situation, such as when television is allowed on du ring dinner, the likelihood that the family will have high frequency dinners is likely t o decrease. Randall Collins (2004) argues that the ritual participants need to be able to share a single focus of attention, and that, successful situations are structured in s uch a way that makes it easier for the participants to do so. Families that maintain a reg ular dinner routine over time establish the context of the dinner, which shapes t he structure of the situation which


92 provides the group’s basis for interaction, which c ommunicates to the members of the family the importance of their shared commitment, m ade visible in the regularity of the situation. Maintaining a single definition of t he situation became substantially more difficult for certain families after the proli feration of communication and entertainment technologies, such as the telephone, television, computer, etc. These technologies have the potential to interrupt the fl ow of conversation and to draw the participants’ attention away from the dinner ritual ; a disruptive potential which increases in accordance with how acceptable the int erruptions become, and how frequently the situation gets interrupted. The disruptions caused by these technologies negat ively impact the likelihood that the situation will produce beneficial outcomes because when these technologies interrupt the situation, they steal the focus of at tention, and break down the conversational rhythm which entertains the particip ants and improves their mood. Most of the participants in this study agreed that it was acceptable for a member of their family to answer the phone, and three of the participants, Jim, Thomas, and Steve, agreed that they watched television during d inner on some days of the week. In “Adolescent and Parent Views of Family Meals”, Fulk erson et al (2006:530) reported that television viewing was inversely associated wi th the frequency of family meals. With this in mind, Larson, Branscomb and Wiley (200 6:6) reported that 63 percent of eight to eighteen year olds said the television is ‘usually’ on during meals, indicating to the extent that televisions help to “normalize t he expectation of constant availability and interruption”(Daly 2001:32). If pe ople do not desire to focus on communicating with their family during the meal, or if the participants in the ritual


93 are having difficulty in defining the appropriate d ecorum and expected behavior for the situation, which televisions can obfuscate, the benefits of the dinner ritual will not be as significant for the participants, leaving les s incentive for families to repeat the ritual in the future. Tensions can arise since convenience food makes it significantly easier for individuals to prepare their own food, and sharing a family dinner becomes even less defined by its role in providing food and the empha sis of the meal shifts to its social aspects. However, if television decreases the amoun t that families converse with one another during dinner, with Fulkerson et al (2006) reported to be the case, one of the major incentives for having family dinners diminish es. Since individuals gravitate towards situations they perceive to be likely to pr oduce high levels of emotional energy (Collins 2004), and families are less able t o maintain cohesive, unbroken conversation in the face of the frequent encroachme nt of communication and entertainment technologies, families with televisio ns due to encroachment from the proliferation of communications and entertainment t echnologies, which are themselves available in many other situations, it b ecomes less likely that individuals will choose dinners over other activities which may provide higher levels of emotional energy. Age Moving beyond the emphasis that parents put on th eir family dinners, Fulkerson et al (2006) reported that the correlatio n between an adolescent’s views of having family dinners and their frequency was an ev en stronger predictor of whether or not there would be a family meal than the views of the adults in the household. Essentially, Fulkerson et al argued that it was not just the level of emphasis placed on


94 the meal that decides the meals frequency, but also how much this emphasis gets internalized. My study similarly found that when th e participant’s adolescents or children tended to be accepting of family dinners, the participants tended be more satisfied with the outcomes of their family dinners and tended to be less anxious about spending time with their family. When I asked Claire, “How much emphasis do you put on getting your family together for dinner as often as your do?”16 she responded, “It’s not hard. If they’re home, we all just say, it’s time to eat, and they all come runnin.” Claire’s love for cooking rubbed off on her son, who wants “to be a chef when he grows up. Makin’ and eating good food is … well I think it’s just as important to him as it is for me and my husband.” E ven though Claire’s family eats later in the day than they would like due to schedu ling conflicts, each individual in their family enjoys sharing dinner, which makes hav ing the event more enjoyable, and thus, more likely to happen. Thomas, the shift worker with inconsistent weekly work hours, does not have the same luxury of consistency that many of the oth er families had. Thomas cooks dinner for his family whenever sleep or work does n ot directly interfere, which is “about every night.” He says that he gets to share about three dinners with his family a week, a number that he would like to see increase However, his son, who is 15 now, does not always cooperate. Thomas likes to coo k for his family, and has had four years working as a chef and two years as a sho rt order cook. But when dinner is ready, “the kid is in there playing his videogames” and Thomas will “usually have to fight him to get off that damn thing.” 16 Claire reported the most family meals of any other participant at 5 to 6 per night.


95 Ron : Do you have a set time and place for dinner? Thomas : It varies depending on what day it is. Ron : In what ways? Thomas : When I’m not workin, I try to have dinner ready b y the time my wife gets home, so I’ll try and have it don e about 6:00pmish… And, you know, I try to make it to the table, but sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we’ll sit in front of the tv and e at there. But we usually eat at the table. Ron: So, things are different when you’re working? Thomas: “Yeah— you see, my wife, she never makes our son s it down to eat with her when I’m not home. Usually she just pops somethin’ in the microwave and that’s that. Dinners served, you know? And so now sometimes when I tell him to put a way his game because its time for dinner, he’ll get really pissed … sorry, um, I mean angry, and he’ll be all like “This is stupid! How come you’re making me eat at the table? Mom never makes me.’ … Ron : What signals the end of dinner for your family? Thomas : Usually, when my kid runs off to play his game. H e gets right back in there, being all like “I gotta keep g oing” The example of Thomas’ son choosing videogames ove r staying to chat with the rest of his family illustrates the ways in whic h dinnertime has to compete with other popular activities. Since Thomas’ son is not allowed to bring his food into his personal room, and has to eat at the kitchen table with everyone else, he chooses to, as Thomas put it, eat “like a bat-outta hell”. When Thomas is home, he can enforce the rule that his son isn’t allowed to eat in his r oom, which was Thomas’s way of adding structure to the meal to ensure more family time. However, when Thomas isn’t home, his wife doesn’t enforce the time or pl ace of the meal, which destabilizes the observable pattern of family dinners, causing t ensions and conflict to emerge. As the structures regularizing the dinner faded, so di d Thomas’s son’s willingness to have family dinners, something which was compounded by the availability of other entertaining activities competing for peoples’ time which in this case was videogames. When Thomas’s son can not manage to cir cumvent Thomas’s demands


96 that they eat together, he eats quickly. Eating qui ckly cuts down on the duration of the meal and on the amount of conversation that occurs between the participants. Thomas’ son is mid-way through his teenage years, is almost legally able to get his permit and get a job. Thomas’s comments ill ustrate some of the difficulties which may potentially arise when minors desire less frequent family dinners as they get older. The participants in my study with the ol dest children shared the fewest family meals, the families with the early teenage c hildren tended to fall into the medium frequency category, and the families with th e youngest participants tended to have the most frequent family meals. The only insta nces where this deviated in my study were larger families, with a large difference between the oldest and the youngest members of the family. Penelope, a single mother with a seventeen year old son, was one of the participants to take notice of this trend concerning the age of her children, and the decline of the frequency of their family dinners over time. Ron : Are you satisfied with how often you get to have dinner with your son? Penelope : No Ron : So you would like to eat with your son and daught er more often? Penelope : Yeah. But that’s just part of growing up. They’re moving up. They’re going on. Ron : What kinds of things limit how often you all get to eat together? Penelope : Work, sports, friends, that kinda stuff. Again, t hat’s just age and growing up. A natural progression. Penelope was one of the participants unsatisfied w ith the rate her family shares dinner. Her daughter has moved out of the ho use, and her son works a part time job at night, during their usual dinnertime. P enelope dismisses the loss of her family meals as being part of growing up, which she considers to be a natural progression. The decline in frequency of family mea ls as minors age may not


97 necessarily be a ‘natural progression,’ as Penelope put it, so much as the result of a sudden decline in socially and legally enforced age -based constraints allowing minors to gain access to a much wider variety of new activ ities (Gillis 1996) which may directly conflict with family dinners. Since a mino r’s age affects the frequency of family dinners with such regularity in American soc iety, it seemed natural. However the specific age at which minors begin having acces s to these new activities and responsibilities is more of a byproduct of cultural and legal standards than just a matter of biology. This trend of older children eat ing fewer family meals was replicated in quite a few other studies. The article “Family Dinner and Diet Quality among Older Children and Adolescents” (Gillman, Rifas-Shiman, Frazier, Rocke tt, Camargo, Field, Berkey, Colditz 2000:235) found that “more than half of the 9-year-olds ate family dinner every day, whereas only about one third of 14-yearolds did so.” Similar findings were revealed in other studies concerning the corre lation between age groups and the frequency of family meals (Seymour 1983; Neumark-Sz tainemra, Story, Ackard, Moe & Parry 1999; Convey 2002; Neumark-Sztainer, Hannan Story, Croll, Perry 2003; Fulkerson Neumark-Sztainer, Story M 2006; Child Tre nds Data Bank 2007; Mancino Newman 2007; Rockett 2007). As minors get older, mo re options become available to them that allow them, with varying degrees of succe ss, to act more autonomously and with greater levels of self sufficiency. An increas e in expected levels of selfsufficiency can translate into less supervision fro m the parent. In terms of dinner frequency, requiring less paren tal supervision means that parents feel less obligated to oversee the preparat ion and/or consumption of their


98 adolescent’s dinner. This means that sharing dinner ceases to be a requirement for the parent as the adolescent gets older, instead becomi ng more of a choice or option. Neumark-Sztainemra et al (1999) found that 12.2% of the 7th-10th grade students participating in their study reported that a parent was never in the room with them during dinner. They also reported that 20% of 7th-1 0th grade students reported that they usually prepared their own dinner (1999). As t hey get older, adolescents become more proficient at preparing edible snacks and meal s, meaning that they no longer need to rely solely on the food cooked and served b y their parents, and parents cease being the gatekeeper regulating the type of food in their child’s diet (Boutelle, Lytle, Murray, Birnbaum & Story 2001). Janice, one of the mothers of five, said that her oldest two sons, ages eighteen and sixteen, are the ones in her family who miss their family dinners the most, because of their part time jobs. Ron : What do your sons typically do for dinner when th ey don’t eat with the rest of their family? Janice “They make themselves dinner if they are going to work before dinner. Or they just get some fast food.” Janice’s response demonstrates that she considers h er sons’ ability to acquire sufficient amounts and types of food on their own t o be adequate, and emphasizes that there are a number of options available for th em to acquire food, such as getting convenience foods from the house, or picking up fas t food on their way to work. In addition to social constraints, minors have add itional age based constraints imposed upon them by the law, and by their parents’ rules. As minors get older, they can legally participate in a greater number of acti vities, such as extra curricular activities, part time jobs, driving, and their pare nts rules tend to (although not always) become more lenient in regards to how their minor s pends their time. Fulkerson et al (2000:237) reported that “older adolescents were mo re likely than younger

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99 adolescents to report scheduling and time barriers to family meals.” As we saw with the emergence of women into the public sphere in th e early 1900s, once new activities become socially acceptable ways for peop le to spend time, older activities must compete with the newer activities for an indiv idual’s time. Randall Collins (2004:27) argues that the impetus underlying an ind ividuals’ choice between multiple situations vying for their time comes from the indi vidual’s belief regarding the amount of emotional energy that they will receive. Collins argues that people “are drawn towards situations giving them a maximum amou nt of positive emotional energy,” meaning that, if an old situation doesn’t provide as much emotional energy as a newer one, then it will probably eventually be replaced. Multiple competing activities can further emphasize the schema of havi ng excessive time constraints (Gillis 1995). As Larson et al (2009:72) argues, “P erceived time constraints and difficulties with time management may lead young ad ults to limit the frequency of having shared meals and to more often eat on the ru n, especially among those with greater work and school commitments.” The number of activities competing for an individual’s time grows exponentially once they are able to labor in the workforce and legally operate a motor vehicle. Access to jobs and a vehicle provide the resources for the minor to purchase food from outside of the home, as it can give them both the financial resources and the means of personally acquiring their desired foo d. The mass proliferation of microwaves17 and convenience foods, in addition to the spread o f fast food restaurants, facilitated this transition towards se lf sufficiency and away from the model of the family meal cooked by a single individ ual and served at a specific time. 17 As of the mid 1990s, Douglas Bowers (2000) noted t hat 90% of Americans had microwaves.

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100 According to a Gallup poll from 2007, those who wer e 50 years of age and older were significantly more likely to prepare a meal entirel y from scratch, and the ages groups 18 to 49 were far more likely to use prepackaged fo od requiring little preparation. These changes which allow individuals to eat accord ing to their own schedule provides competition for family dinners, eliminatin g some of the power family dinners used to derive from being the dominant sour ce of easily available food. It is the new level of autonomy that minors receive at ce rtain points when they get older, which allows them the access to new skills and mate rial resources which have allowed them to miss family dinners more frequently However, it is also this heightened level of autonomy that leads to the sche duling issues and role conflicts which decreases the frequency of family dinners. Scheduling & Role Conflicts Another theme to emerge in my study was the influe nce of scheduling and role conflicts on the frequency of family meals. Th is section will begin with one of the major factors which create role conflicts influ ences the frequency of family meals: parental occupation. These two factors can influenc e the type of food prepared, the duration of meal, the family’s perception of the me al’s importance. An individual’s occupation has the potential to exert a great deal of control over the way the individual spends time, which impacts dinner freque ncy and characteristics because most Americans will give precedence to their occupa tion over most other activities. In “Associations between Perceived Family Meal Envi ronment and Parent Intake of Fruit, Vegetables, and Fat”, Boutelle et al (2006) reported that 50% of their respondents claimed that it is the adults’ work sch edules that make it difficult to have

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101 family meals. Work takes precedence over other acti vities, because it is the “dominant obligation,’ with the consequence being t hat personal, family or free time becomes ‘marginal’ ” (Pronovost 1989:26). When Amer icans are presented with the choice between going to their consistent site of pa id labor and other activities, they tend to choose work first. Common explanations for this emphasize the necessi ty of choosing work over family life, in order to ensure that the family’s b iological needs are met. This was the case with two of my participants, who feel unhappy with the infrequency of their dinners, and claim work was the reason why they wer e unable to have frequent family meals. A good example of the ways that an individual’s wor k schedule takes precedence over other aspects of their lives comes from Thomas who works odd, irregular hours on third shift. Ron : So, what comes to mind when you hear the word din ner? Thomas : Probably having everybody together. I mean, that’ s basically our time, you know? Everyone’s usually of f doing whatever. My wife’s workin. I don’t get to see em o ften, because of my schedule. Usually I’m sleeping during the day. Ron: So, would you say that getting everyone together f or dinner is important to you? Thomas: Very important. Ron: Is there a particular day of the week that your fa mily typically has dinner together? Thomas: Usually, it’s whenever I’m home. Or should I say, awake? My hours—well, some days I go in early, and then so me days I go in later and that’s kinda hard. You know? It’s like ro cky, it’s like AHH, you know? I sleep for 3 hours and then I get up, an d I don’t get back to sleep, and I’m dead tired. You know? It’s just c razy right now. Ron: Are you happy with your dinners? Thomas: No. Ron: If you could, would you change anything? Thomas: More time together. The first topic Thomas addresses after being asked about dinner was to relate the meal with its social aspects, calling it “our t ime” indicating the meal’s role in

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102 facilitating family time. Due to Thomas’s excessive work-family conflict, Thomas relies upon family dinners to ensure family time be fore he has to go to work. Despite dinner time being an important time for his family, Thomas claims that his job ‘often’ interferes with his ability to have dinner with his family, which he indicated feeling unhappy about. These feelings of unhappiness were i nfluenced by the fact that Thomas doesn’t feel like he gets to spend enough ti me with his children, and so when he is unable to frequently facilitate the situation that would normally allow him to spend more time with his children, he claims to fee l unhappy. In order to accommodate his work schedule, Thomas had to adopt a nonstandard sleep schedule which subsequently put a strain on the quality and quantity of the interactions he has with his family (Cleveland 2005). His non-standard work hours increased the amount of scheduling conflicts which arose in his househol d (Jabs et al 2006), which resulted in increased anxiety about spending time with his f amily, and a decrease in family meal frequency. However, the article “The Time Bind: When work bec omes home and home becomes work” (Hothschild, Lemann 1997) presented i nteresting findings suggesting that, while work might be an obligation to some, ma ny people willingly choose to put work above their home life. Hothschild and Lemann ( 1997) argued that the individuals who put work before home tended to “app reciated themselves more at work than at home” (1997:81) and “know most of thei r friends from work” (1997:82). IR theory would suggest that these individuals rece ive higher positive emotional energy from their work than they do from their fami ly life, making it more likely that they will gravitate towards that situation, instead of to the dinner table. While some of

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103 my participants favored certain activities over eat ing dinner with their family, none of them claimed to favor work over their family. The study “Family Meal Patterns: Associations with Sociodemographic Characteristics and Improved Dietary Intake among A dolescents", reported significant results indicating that the frequency o f family meals was greatest in the households with one stay-at-home parent, and was lo west amongst families with dualworking adult families and single-parent families ( Neumark-Sztainer, Hannan, Story, Croll, Perry 2003). Single parent and dual-working families have one important feature in common: a deficiency in scheduling flex ibility, making it more likely that dinner will be missed in the face of other competin g activities. As Kerry Daly (2001:2) argues in Deconstructing Family Time: From Ideology to Lived Experience, “where once stay-at-home mothers devoted full time energy to the measurement of the household, these tasks are now chinked into the gaps between work timeswith errands being run on lunch hours and housecleaning chopped into manageable bites throughout the week” Single parent and dual-working families often lack the ability to, as Jim the stay at home dad put it, “freestyle. Yeah, dinner has a set time, but it something comes up, we can change it. We’re pretty flexible.” Having a stay at home parent provides families with a greater amount of s ituational flexibility, which makes it easier for these types of families to rearrange their schedules in order to accommodate preparing and consuming home-cooked mea ls with greater frequency (Neumark-Sztainer, Hannan, Story, Croll, Perry 2003 ). With this in mind, the percentage of single-person households, dual working parent households, and single-parent households is growing (Stewart, Blisard,

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104 Bhuyan, Nayga 2004:4; Cleveland 2005), and “it is i ncreasingly likely that all adult family members are paid employees working outside t he home” (Cleveland 2005:338). The dual-employed parent family began ar ound the time of World War I, which created a set of conditions which promoted a greater number of women to enter into the public sphere, and into the workforce. Fam ily dinners first developed in the context of families with one parent working outside the home, one parent dedicated to laboring at home, and usually one or more live-in s ervants helping prepare the meal. Once live-in servants became mostly unattainable f or the middle class and women began entering into the workforce and taking part in more leisure activities outside of the home, the duration of family meals d ecreased (Gillis 1996), consumer food preferences began favoring convenience over he alth and taste (Levenstein 2003), and the frequencies of the meal have decline d. In light of the fact that the presence of a stay at home parent increases the fre quency of family meals, these changes in household demographics indicate that the types of household organizations growing in number are the ones least likely to facilitate frequent family meals. The study “Family Meal Patterns: Associations with Sociodemographic Characteristics and Improved Dietary Intake among A dolescents", took that last point a little further, and reported that a “mother’s emp loyment status was inversely associated with family meal patterns” (Neumark-Szta iner, Hannan, Story, Croll, Perry 2003:321). The mother’s employment status in partic ular was significant, because women typically prepare more meals than men do. Sar ah Winslow (2005:727) contributes the fact that “women’s labor force part icipation rates have risen

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105 considerably—in 2002, more than 60% of women age 20 years and older were engaged in paid labor; their participation having r isen 13% over the course of the preceding 20 years.” Winslow goes on to point out t hat the rate of married mothers entering the work force has increased the most rapi dly. Since it is very unlikely that the prevalence of mothers in the workforce will sig nificantly decline in the near future, focus should be put on understanding the wa ys that single parent and dual working parents facilitate frequent family meals. Beyond an individual’s occupation and work hours, the article “Workplace Factors Associated with Family Dinner Behaviors” (A llen, Shockley, Poteat 2008), argued that supervisors have a great deal of influe nce over whether or not workers are able to sustain frequent family meals over long per iods of time. “Supervisors are likely the main conduit through which employees can negotiate flexibility and other supportive work conditions. Thus, the presence of a family supportive supervisor seems to be key to the facilitation of family dinin g” (2008:340). Supervisors have the ability to be flexible when it comes to deciding wh en a worker can leave. When supervisors are supportive of family activities and act accordingly, they make it much easier for their workers to facilitate family dinne rs with their families. Longer working hours and long driving times correl ate with an across-theboard decline in the time spent on other activities such as preparing and having family dinners (Schor 1993; Putnam 2001; Mancino, N ewman 2007), and can influence the type of food that gets served if ther e is to be a family meal.18 Many studies have tried to find a correlation between in come and the frequency of family 18 As the average amount of time that the heads of a household spends at work increases, so does spending on fast food (Stewart, Blisard, Bhuyan & N ayga 2004).

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106 meals, and while some studies have found a loose as sociation, occupation and expected work hours were better predictors of the f requency of family meals. For example, it was reported in "Family Meal Patterns: Associations with Sociodemographic Characteristics and Improved Dieta ry Intake among Adolescents” (Neumark-Sztainer, Story Croll, Perry, Hannan 2003) that, while having more money was loosely associated with more frequent family me als, there were large standard deviations in their findings, indicating that there were significant differences within the sub-groups. This difference between subgroups can be explained in part by the temporal requirements of the family members’ occupations. Ju st because a family makes a lot of money does not necessarily translate into their members having any flexibility in terms of making time for dinner. Mancino and Newman (2007:3) found similar results in their study on how family resources affe ct food preparation time, and argued that “working full-time and being a single p arent appear to have a larger impact on time allocated to food preparation than a n individual’s earnings or household income do.” Dual and single parent househ olds that work full time are two of the groups with the lowest frequency of family d inners, and they both have a deficiency in scheduling flexibility As a result of the growing number of individuals f ocusing on pursuing higher education, and on developing careers before they ha ve kids, American families are having their first child later in the mother’s life (Bowers 2000), and are having fewer kids overall. Gillis (1996:208) argues, “Delayed ma rriages, postponed child-bearing, and smaller families have reinforced this trend, be gun in the 1920s, towards

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107 relegating the family dinner to a relic of the past .” In the 1850s, the total fertility rate was 5.42 (Levenstein 2003), a number that would shr ink to 2.8 by 1900 (Bowers 2000), and to 2.05 by 2009 (CIA 2010). The number o f family members present in the home during dinnertime can affect the character of the meal, by influencing the types of food served to the family. This is because the size of the family directly affects the type of food purchased at the store, wh ich affects the per capita costs of the type of food eaten. Larger numbers of people ma ke purchasing and preparing food in bulk more cost effective, per-person, than purch asing meals individually at grocery stores (Stewart, Blisard, Bhuyan, Nayga 2004:3; USD A 2008) since buying in bulk tends to lower the cost per unit of the product. Si nce the time to cook oneself a meal will only marginally increase as the number of fami ly members grows, and the cost per capita decreases as families get bigger, eating home cooked meals tends to occur more frequently among larger groups of people. For example, Sarah, a mother of five children, say s it takes, “somewhere in the ballpark of 20 minutes to cook myself dinner” a nd about “thirty-five to forty minutes, give or take” to prepare a meal for her en tire family. The larger the family gets, the less per capita families spend on food wh en cooking at home, meaning that larger families spend significantly more money over all when going out to eat than smaller families, potentially providing less incent ive to eat out, and more incentive to use non-processed foods. With one exception,19 every participant in my study with three or more adolescents prepared dinner every nig ht for their family and rarely went out to eat. Two of these participants had five chil dren, and even though they have to 19 The one exception was Susan, who has three adolesc ents in their later teenage years, all have their own cars and have part time jobs which frequently i nterfere with their family’s dinner time.

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108 negotiate seven different peoples schedules in orde r facilitate family dinners, they make a big point to go through the process of synch ronizing their schedules to establish a common time that would be convenient fo r most, if not all, of their family’s activities. Going through the arduous, som etimes time consuming process of finding a good time to schedule dinner every day of the week indicated a basic affinity for dinner, which Susan, the one exception to this argument, lacked. In Susan’s family’s case, dinners weren’t very importa nt as they weren’t sites of sociability, and so their family never scheduled di nners in advance, meaning that they infrequently make efforts to find a time that would work for everyone in her family. Rush and Family Dinners As we have begun to see from the interviews and fr om the other studies, time plays an important role in allowing people to organ ize the demands of multiple roles which compete for an individual’s time. People expe rience increasing the number of activities to a person’s weekly routine may increas e their disposition towards the perception of time scarcity, which “occurs when eve nts are more rigorously scheduled” (Gillis 1995:29). Feelings of time scarc ity or the urge to rush may result in “time deepening” (Gobey, Robinson 1998) behavior s, which are characterized by an increased prevalence in multitasking, a decrease in the duration of certain activities by either skipping the social aspects of the meal, accelerating the pace of the dinner by eating faster, or in ending the activity earlier than it otherwise would have been over. In terms of dinner, individuals may eat on th e run (Larson, Nelson, NeumarkSztainer, Story, Hannan 2009:75) 20, forgoing the social aspects of the meal, be 20 In their study, half of the males, and 59.2% of fe males “somewhat or strongly agreed that they tend to eat on the run.

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109 simultaneously engaged in multiple activities durin g the meal, like eating, and watching television. Or they may consume their meal quickly before leaving their house, which leaves less time for talking. An emphasis on rush and the promotion of haste bega n with the expansion and proliferation of linear time disciplines, appea ring in the form of standardized timetables, scheduling, and an increased use of clo cks as a form of mediating and organizing social relationships. Gillis (1995:23) w rites that “Paradoxically, the view that there is never enough time for family dates fr om the same historical moment that initiated the notion that family time and witnessed its multiplication.” The same group to call for more family meals was the first t o attempt to engender family time. Thus the widespread utilization of linear time as a dominant temporal orientation was closely associated with widespread anxieties about time, due to “an endless series of judgments about how we have, are, or should be usin g time” (Daly 2001:11). In terms of family life, Juliet Schor (1993:11) argued in 19 93 that these anxieties about time have manifested such that, “half the population now says they have too little time for their families.” Another study found that a majorit y of their respondents agreed that families currently spend less time together than th ey did thirty years ago, and that “that spending more time with family was the most l ikely way to strengthen family values” (Mellman, Lazarus, Rivlin 1990). In a later study, the “1997 national study of the changing workforce” (Bond, Galinsky, and Swanberg 1998), the number of employed mothers and fathers feeling that they do n ot get to spend enough time with their children increased to 70%.

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110 With this in mind, Juliet Schor (1993:11) argues t hat feelings of time scarcity “is particularly acute for women… half of all emplo yed mothers reported it caused either ‘a lot’ or an ‘extreme’ level of stress.” O n average, American women tend to feel anxieties and rush with greater frequency than men, which can lead to ‘a lot’ or ‘extreme’ levels of stress. Research conducted by G obey et al (1998), which included participants from 1300 households, found that 64% o f mothers working full time ‘always’ felt rushed, making them the demographic w ith the highest predisposition towards feeling rushed. This is, in part, because A merican women are still expected to do a larger portion of domestic tasks than men, eve n when they are employed fulltime outside of the home just as long as their significa nt others do. For example, in 2005 women spent over twice as much time in child care a ctivities (Mancino Newman 2007), and almost three times more in food preparat ion (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006) as men. Furthermore, women are more likely to view family time as work, or as a combination of work and leisure, where as men tend to view family time solely as leisure time (Daly 1996:69). The factors which promote the feelings of rush are very similar to the set of factors which inhibit the frequency of family meals Kerry Daly (2001:2) argues that “a number of cultural forces have converged to give time a greater sense of urgency in our lives. These are both structural and percept ual and are rooted in dramatic changes in family structure, paid work, gender role s, and technology.” In terms of family structure, the size of the family has substa ntially decreased, women are having children later in their lives, dual-earner families are increasing in prevalence, divorce rates are at higher levels than in the previous dec ades resulting in more single parent

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111 families. As families have become smaller in number over time, the adult members of the household have had to fulfill a growing number of roles and pick up new responsibilities that were formerly delegated to ot her members of the family which generates new time constraints on the adults. In terms of paid work, one of the greatest changes in working hours has been the increased prevalence of people working full-tim e all year, a practice which began with industrial practices loosening man’s relations hip with the natural world and the seasons, which used to dictate yearly work schedule s. Americans have one of the shortest amounts of vacation time compared to many other industrialized nations (de Graff 2003:21), “weekly work hours have increased a mong dual-earner couples, single mothers, the poor, and members of racial/eth nic minorities” (Devine, Jastram, Wethington, Farrel, Bisogni 2006), and on the whole Americans worked 25% more overtime in the late 1990s than they did in the pre vious decades (de Graff 2003:21). John Robinson and Geoffrey Gobey (1996:44) pointed out that the ages which people are most disposed to feeling rushed are between 35 and 44,”with a marked drop after age 45. Not surprisingly, having children increases the time crunch. So do higher levels of education and income, which are often ass ociated not only with more demanding work schedules and responsibilities, but with a more complex agenda for ‘free’ time” (Robinson Godbey 1996). Women are havi ng their first child later in their life due to a desire to establish a career be fore being a parent, which may force many women to choose between having more time for t he family and their occupation or to find ways to negotiate between the two, potentially decreasing dinner frequency. More complex agendas for free tim e mean more entertaining

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112 activities to compete with family dinners, which al so may decrease the frequency of family meals. Daly argues that the proliferation of labor saving technologies “creates a new kind of impatience. Microwaves make conventional ov ens seem slow” (Daly 2001:34) and “gives rise to intolerance for waiting and a desire for immediate results and gratification. With regard to commodities, this is expressed in terms of the values and virtues of instantaneity (instant fast foods) a nd disposability (cups, plates, napkins, clothing)” (2001:34). Personal motorized v ehicles also contribute to the normalization of desires for instant gratification, allowing individuals the capacity to travel long distances in shorter amounts of time. H owever, since many cities in America have developed around the proliferation of these personal vehicles, it becomes increasingly more convenient to drive inste ad of walk, and in certain circumstances driving can be mandatory. In Bowling Alone Robert Putman (2000) argues that Americans are now driving on average 72 minutes per day to and from work everyday, which he argues has a range of delet erious affects on community activities, such as civic participation, and time f or the family. While cars may make going to certain places quicker, they inevitably ad d additional time investments to other activities, which adds to the sense of rush. In ‘The American Family and Time” Fulton argues t hat Americans’ obsession with trying to save time “are profound, s o profound that the American’s reason for doing what he does, when he does it can be obscured and perhaps even forgotten in the ritual of hurry. It is almost as i f people are driven to consume experience and satisfaction at a fanatic rate” (Ful ton 1964:7). These perceptions of

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113 time scarcity have important ramifications for the frequency and characteristics of family meals, because it has the ability to influen ce several aspects of the meal including organization, preparation, and the contex t of the meal. Furthermore, just the perception of time scarcity, regardless of the actual amount of leisure time someone has, was found to be one of the factors inversely c orrelated with the frequency of family meals (Presser 1999; Fulkerson et al 2006; J abs, Devine 2007). If an individual feels rushed, they may put less effort i nto organizing their meal, which can be viewed in terms of the amount of time in advance that individuals plan their dinner, how often they shop and how much time they spend shopping, and the overall level of formality of their meal. In terms of shopp ing, time pressures may affect shopping habits, as people who dedicate less time t o planning their meals tend to purchase a lower quantity of fresh food (Crawford, Ball, Mishra, Salmon, & Timperio 2007). In my study, 66% of the participants made plans fo r their meal the day of, usually planning their meal “on the fly,” or right before they actually began cooking. If an individual feels rushed, they may prepare a d ifferent meal than if they didn’t feel rushed, potentially supplementing fresh foods with labor saving processed food, which influences the context of the ritual. Since women first began using convenience foods as a way to get leisure time (Lev enstein 2003), it should be no surprise that the perception of time scarcity is po sitively correlated with increases in spending and consumption of fast food, take-out, an d convenience products (Byrne, Capps, Saha 1998; Devine, Jabs 2006). Devine et al (2006) argued that these types of convenience products were used by employed parents as a strategy to cope with

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114 excessive time demands. Participants in my study si milarly utilized commercially prepared products, take out, and fast food as a way to cope with their excessive time demands. When I asked Steven if he changed his eati ng habits when he felt tired or rush, he responded, “Yeah, we get faster. We’ll eit her go with TV dinners, or you know, fast food.” Steven’s response was fairly typi cal amongst my participants, most of whom admitted eating processed or fast foods if they felt tired, rushed, or if they were away from home. Shedding a different light on the issue of rush, a few of the participants in my study illuminated the fact that they irregularly ex perienced excessive time demands, and that for them, feeling rushed tended to come in cycles. Good examples of this arose during Jim and Sarah’s interviews. Ron: When do you purchase fast food for your family, and where do you eat it? Jim: We tend to bring fast food back to the house, n’ ea t it there. It really varies though. We’ll go for several months w ithout any, and then we’ll do it like 6-7 times a month, which is d isgusting, but… it really vacillates. Jim’s response indicates that he will purchase fast food for his family in waves, in accordance to when he needs to make up the extra ti me somewhere. Jim labeled the high frequency that he fed his children fast food ‘ disgusting,’ affirming his previous assertion that fast food “isn’t really food, ya’ kn ow? It’s just something we use in between real food when we’re behind schedule. Or it ’s like, a treat for the kids. I always make it a point to tell em’ that it’s a trea t though—I don’t want them thinking McDonalds is ok to eat.” Since Jim reported the lon gest time spent preparing food, at 1.5 to 3 hours every other day, any major disruptio ns to his schedule may cause him to have to have to make major adjustments to his ro utines, which may include supplementing fresh foods with processed foods or f ast foods during periods of rush.

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115 Sarah, a mother of five, provides another good exam ple of the ways in which fast food can be utilized amidst a time crunch. Ron: How often do you purchase fast food for your family ? Sarah: More than I like. But it goes in waves, you know? D epending on what’s going on. Lately it hasn’t been that ofte n, maybe every other week. Ron: Was it different before? Sarah: Yeah, it was during a different time in our lives, when we were living in the last house which was much smalle r, and I had more little ones, and they were with me all the tim e when I wasn’t working. We were in the car a lot, always on the go because there were so many activities. But that was years ago. We did it for the convenience. But like I said, it’s been a couple of years. Sarah’s comment about purchasing fast food in wave s indicates that she uses fast food as an option during times she considers t o be busier, probably because she and her husband were both working full time then. D uring the time of the interviews, both Sarah and Jim were stay at home parents, and t heir situation allowed them to provide flexibility during situations characterized by a sense of rush. Sarah’s comments indicated that when she was working, she o ften had to make more use of fast food, because their family was ‘in the car a l ot’ and had a lot of other activities. But now that Sarah worked in the home full time, sh e was able to cut back on the amount of fast food she consumed, and emphasized th at she rarely became so rushed that she felt she needed to resort to fast food, re peating that it had been a long time since it last occurred. The more prevalent the feeling of rush was with my participants, the less likely that they were to sit down to eat with the r est of their family. Of the four participants in my study who indicated ‘often’ feel ing rushed, two of them had low frequency family meals, and the other two had mediu m frequency family meals. 75%

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116 of these participants often feeling rushed also fel t like they didn’t get enough time with the families, and would like more frequent fam ily meals.

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117 Chapter V: Discussion and Conclusion Examining the formation and subsequent changes to the characteristics and frequency of family dinners provided the basis for an examination of the relationship between families and patterned elements of American society on a macro scale. The nuclear family emerged in the wake of the decline o f the household, leading to the conditions where increasingly smaller groups of peo ple became expected to fulfill an increasingly large number of roles, while also expe cting to be able to partake in a growing number of activities offered in the public sphere. Family dinners were invented and practiced first in the socio-cultural context of a middle-class nuclear family unit with one stay at home parent, one paren t working full time out of the house, and one or more domestic servants to help. When qualified domestic servants became mostly una vailable to the middle class, domestic responsibilities became, for the mo st part, delegated almost entirely to women. This became an acute problem after married w omen began entering the workforce in greater numbers, as the roles they wer e expected to fill were not delegated to anyone else. This caused meaning that unpaid domestic labor to be relegated to a position of secondary importance, an d as such it was to be completed in between other activities and responsibilities. As t ime demands increased, at least in perception if not in reality, social organization a cross the country became increasingly organized according to the clock, by schedules, and by linear timelines, making many people more conscious of the passing of time. Since time became associated with money as productivity and efficiency became key val ues in America’s capitalist

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118 economy, the idle passing of time became associated with waste, spurring people to attempt to fill their every waking moment with acti vity. Interaction Ritual theory proposes that people gra vitate towards the situations they believe will give them the highest amount of r hythmic entertainment and emotional energy, and so activities can be seen as a contest for peoples’ time and attention. In order to ‘save’ time, many Americans began purchasing labor saving products with greater frequency, delegating their d omestic tasks, which were once assigned to other members of the household, to indu strial processing companies in exchange for money. These types of purchases come i n the form of eating out in restaurants and fast food chains, using canned, fro zen, or otherwise preprocessed foods, in addition to a wide variety of other techn ologies providing similar benefits for different circumstances. An increase in the use of processed foods led to a decline in the consumption of fresh foods, and a decrease i n the number of home gardens grown. Time has become an important facet of modern Amer ican culture, and as the third chapter covered, many studies have indicated that Americans often feel pressured for time. In reference to family dinners we can see time-thrift behavior in the form of a decreasing frequency, duration, and o verall formality of family meals. More often than not, a significant portion of Ameri cans eat on the run, or when they do eat with their family, they tend to do so quickl y. These patterns of behaviors have largely become routine parts of American family lif e, and knowing about these patterns of behaviors helps one understand the cont ext that contemporary American meal characteristics and frequencies are situated w ithin. Prevalent feelings of rush

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119 were found to be correlated with fewer family meals and affected the structure and characteristics of the meal, by influencing the dur ation of the meal, and the types of food served for the meal. Examining dinners with Randall Collin’s IR theory illuminated the importance of the preparation ritual in ensuring fr equent family meals, as it was this particular situation which structured the extent th at rush would be able to influence the characteristics of family meals. For example, i ndividuals who loved cooking or were trained in cooking were far more likely to hav e frequent family dinners than those who do not enjoy family dinners, or lacked th e skills necessary to prepare it. By looking at the preparation stage of family meals as a situation, we can begin to see that when people see the preparation of food as bei ng enjoyable or at least manageable, and have the skills to create a meal me eting their family’s expectations, they tended to view their entire dinner situation m ore favorably. In practice, this meant they spent more time planning for their meals and more time preparing the meals, which helps to establish a routine insuring the meal. However, when individuals were strapped for time, they tended to utilize higher quantities of preprocessed foods, which shape peoples disposition s in the next situation, imbuing dinner with the feel of being rushed. When dinner g ets rushed, the focus shifts away from conversation, and the incentive to share dinne r decreases because less positive benefits emerge from the ritual, eventually leading to more individualistic feeding behaviors, such as eating on the run. The results from the interviews indicated first an d foremost that frequent family meals are far more likely to occur when indi viduals prioritize them over other

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120 activities. People need to want to have family dinn ers, and if they are to occur with high frequency, they need to develop strategies of action to facilitate the event. The desire to have family meals was influenced by peopl e’s ideologies pertaining to the importance of having family dinners, by their abili ty to prepare food, and by their family’s reaction to their prepared meal. People de siring frequent family meals are also less likely to choose to skip dinner for other activities. One of the central strategies used to facilitate frequent dinners was to schedule the event with all the members of the family in order to find a time that would work for everyone. When family dinners became an integral part of a family’ s expected routine, it was more likely that nobody in the family would skip it, mea ning it became more probable that the entire family would get together. Keeping a con sistent time and place for the meal helped create an observable pattern of behavior, le ading to the appearance of structure and order. Televisions and other outside distractio ns tended to lower the positive outcomes of family dinners, since television result ed in lower levels of direct communication between family members; for the parti cipants in this study, the frequent presence of television was associated with lower satisfaction rates of family dinners. The demographic composition of the family was also important, as smaller families were more likely to eat convenience food, or eat in restaurants. Families with one stay at home parent were the most likely to hav e frequent family dinners in contrast to single parent families or dual-employed families. Occupational work hours played a substantial role in whether or not family dinners would occur, as work tends to be viewed as a dominant obligation in America, m eaning other activities get

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121 scheduled around it. Furthermore, as adolescents ge t older, it becomes far more likely that they will eat dinner with their parents less, unless they also view family dinners as being important. This study suggests that understanding the factors which either inhibit or promote family meals could be useful for policy mak ers or social reformers, since many scholars argue that frequent family dinners ha ve many demonstrable beneficial outcomes in the areas of education, nutrition, and substance use, especially for children and young adults. High frequencies of fami ly meals have been correlated with increased academic achievement (CASA 2007), wh ich includes faster vocabulary growth (Beals & Snow, 1994), increased c onsumption of fruits and vegetables (Gillman, Rifas-Shiman, Frazier, Rockett Camargo, Field, Berkey, Colditz 2000:235; Neumark-Sztainer, Hannan, Story, Croll, Perry 2003), and a decrease in the likelihood of obesity (Guadalupe, R ogers, Arredondo, Campbell, Baquero, Duerksen, Elder 2008). Furthermore, the ar ticle “Family meals and adolescents: what have we learned from Project EAT? ” (Neumark-Sztainer, Larson, Fulkerson, Eisenberg, Story 2010:795), usin g the results of a survey of 4,746 adolescents, reported that frequent family meals we re “associated with significantly lower odds of the following variables: cigarette, a lcohol, and marijuana use; low grade point average; high depressive symptoms and s uicidal ideation (among boys and girls); and poor self-esteem and suicide attemp ts among girls.” With this in mind, the patterns which have emerge d in the last few decades indicate that the frequency and duration of family dinners are at a low point. If the benefits of family dinners are to be realized, thes e trends need to reverse, which is

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122 why it was important to find exactly what factors p romote family dinners, and what may make them slowly fade out of common practice. F uture research on this topic should focus on finding causal mechanisms which inc rease the frequency of family meals. This research has shown that, while family m eals were part of the Victorian Middle Class’s attempts at engendering quality fami ly time, frequent family meals can result in a wide variety of beneficial outcomes since they produce structured, repetitive interactions between children and adults which encourage the formation of routines resulting in a wide variety of different b enefits for both individuals and their families.

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