Sunday, June 26, 2011

Eeeke!! My Kitchen Smells Like Food!

It’s Monday morning. The tattooed meter man is walking up the path to my front door. I go down to let him in. No matter the weather, he is always cheerful and polite. He walks in, wipes his feet and says, “Gee, something smells good.” The aroma of last night’s roasted chicken still lingers in the house. I follow him as he makes his way downstairs. He knows the way.

“It reminds me of my Grandmother’s house,” he continues. “It always smelled like cooking. Her English wasn’t too good….she was from Italy….. but she sure could cook.”

I see the wedding ring on his finger and ask a question to which I already know the answer. “Is your wife a good cook?”

He gives a hearty laugh and says, “My wife thinks a home cooked meal comes from a package she nukes in the microwave, cuts open and dumps on the plate.” Obviously feeling a bit guilty at having said that, he quickly adds, “But, you know, she’s busy. She works, too. Can’t live on take-out.”

Just a guess, but I am probably older than the tattooed meter man’s Mother and younger than his Grandmother, which puts me pretty squarely in the last generation of American women who makes home cooked meals on a regular basis.
And that is not a guess.

The young woman who can cook or has any desire to do so today is rare indeed.

Of course, when it comes time for her to buy her first house, she wants nothing less than a state-of-the-art kitchen with professional grade appliances, which she will never use, except for the microwave.

I thought I had heard every excuse imaginable for not cooking (don’t know how, no time, no interest, hate the clean-up), until one night while watching the Food network I heard this little gem. A young woman was planning a brunch with her caterer. She told her caterer that her kitchen was off limits. The caterer was to prepare all food off site because, she said firmly, “I don’t want my house to smell like food.” Huh??

For too many Americans, sitting down to a home cooked dinner is something they see only in old movies on Turner Classic or reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show.

The concept of mealtime and everything it entails no longer exists for them. They no longer know when, how or what to eat, so they eat whatever whenever and wherever they are at all hours of the day and night.

The American relationship with food has become largely dysfunctional and the results are painfully obvious.

Sadly, not only has this dysfunctional relationship had a deleterious effect on our health, but on our ability to interact successfully on a social level. The family dinner table was not just a place where children traditionally learned table manners, but where they began the process of learning how to interact socially.

The catch phrase “a teachable moment” has become quite popular lately. Everything that happens, good or bad, we are told, has intrinsic value as a teachable moment.

The family dinner is, for me, the perfect teachable moment for a young child.

Other than how to use a knife and fork properly, here is what I learned at the family dinner table as a child.

 Don’t put your elbows on the table;
 Don’t chew with your mouth open;
 Don’t shovel food into your mouth;
 Don’t talk with food in your mouth;
 Don’t interrupt when someone is speaking;
 Think before you speak;
 Don’t slouch; and
 Don’t fidget.

All children start out as little hedonistic savages. It’s up to parents to civilize them for their own good and for that of society. Why not make family dinner a teachable moment for your child?

After all, the first thing Annie Sullivan taught her unruly charge, Helen Keller, was how to sit at table and use a fork.


  1. I love this post. To fear that a kitchen smells of lovely food shows how far some people are away from their sensuality. And to sit down at the family table - with good manners - is wonderful and important!
    Interesting: today a lot of young men start to cook.

    1. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could bring back good manners?

      I fear it may already be too late, but I still hope to fight the good fight.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Brigitta.

      Best, M-T

  2. You can tell a lot about a person by their kitchen and the food they eat.

  3. Indeed you can, Ms. Lemon. You can also tell a lot about a person by how they eat, as in table manners.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    Best, M-T


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