Formal Dining: A History
For many centuries, a dining table at home spelled class and dignity. Ancient Greeks called it an andron, a place to eat and have discussions, even get entertained by performing artists.
The dining table constructed a power dynamic that happens when people of different class, race or gender relations sit and eat together, something that was replicated across centuries and in all advanced civilizations of the past.
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Post-modernist trends lean towards comfort and freeform styles, with the formal dining table not compatible with the lifestyle of the current generation. People are increasingly lonely, giving rise to the loneliness epidemic despite being hyper-connected virtually.
The near future seems isolated and the return towards a special, sacred place to dine together does not look likely.
The 1920s saw the kitchen become the living room of the house. People installed new appliances and invited friends and relatives for dinner just to show off. This gave rise to the concept of eat-in kitchens and resulted in the kitchen eating up the dining table. Americans also started working more and ate together infrequently.
The rise of television in the 50s made frozen TV Dinners a popular concept, even though it was cheap, horrible food. The eat-in kitchen became the living room where kids did their homework and ate casual meals right after it was prepared by their moms.
Now we do not usually indulge in formal theatrics of hosting dinner parties on a dining table and are comfortable sitting on the floor if needed. We are not stressed up about eating etiquettes or dress codes, focusing on the quality of the company rather than their furniture.
Modern, heavily populated cities don’t have the bandwidth for expansive wooden dining tables, as rents are high and the furniture, dinner sets and cabinets would serve no real purpose. Those who can afford it go for installing a theatre or movie hall with a giant LED screen.
Many people eat three meals a day. But we don't have to eat this way.
In trying to find a new routine while working from home, many Americans are drawn to eating a Big Meal once a day when they're ready to have it. A Big meal is large and can be eaten at any time of the day, typically in the late afternoon. It is not a diet, just a convenient way of eating.
Our homes are now being used not only as shelter and refuge, but also as workplace and school and gym and theater and restaurant and bar and laundry and town square.
But whether a house or a compact apartment, those dwellings were never meant to be as profoundly multifunctional as a shelter-in-place scenario requires them to be.
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