Hovering over me with a handful of pins, my Chinese-medicine doctor was trying to work out what had been making me feel so lethargic. He got his answer when he asked me to stick out my tongue. "Aha, you've been eating out? Not eating much good home-cooked food, correct?" he said with a big knowing smile. Wow. My tongue had exposed my lifestyle, and without my permission. The doctor then went into detail about how food "made with love" at home helps the body to reach an equilibrium, and just sitting at a dining table and smelling the food for a few minutes can help the digestive system to work properly.
So many of us, especially those with demanding jobs, rarely eat food that we've cooked ourselves, or even eat at a dining table except on special occasions. We order food as we work at our desks, and when we get home we eat in front of the TV instead of sitting down with the family and enjoying a wholesome meal seasoned with conversation, taking time to savour every dish. I can't remember the last time I did that. In fact, I even used to bake and have time to share my goodies with friends and colleagues. Not any more.
Of course, eating in my apartment's dining room would be difficult. There isn't one. Which raises an interesting question: did engineers and architects stop building homes with dining rooms because they worked out that no one ever used them, or was it the other way round? Have we stopped using the family dining room because these days so few apartments, even villas, have one? It's the old chicken and egg thing, I suppose.
I know when I was looking at apartments I wanted a dining room so I could invite people over, but the estate agent said: "Why do you want a dining room? How often are you going to cook at home? Single people rarely eat at dining tables." Whatever, I think I eat at a healthier pace (and I eat much less!) when I have the TV off and I am focusing on the plate in front of me. Unless it's my day off I am usually too tired and short of time to cook something complicated, so I regress to my university days and make pasta. Quick, filling and delicious, just not more than twice a week; that's when it starts helping you to gain weight, along with all the other food you order in or eat at restaurants.
I actually lost weight when I ate all my meals at home for a week. I was the chef and decided on the ingredients myself, and most of them weren't even low fat, just added in moderation. I also noticed my skin clearing up and having that extra glow about it when I paid more attention to what I was eating, and how I was eating it. There are numerous studies showing that children who are used to eating with their families have better social skills and fewer behavioural problems, and the overall family dynamics are healthier because a lot of issues are resolved round the dining table.
When I was growing up, if I was late home from basketball training I would be punished by having my dessert eaten by my younger siblings, and I would have to watch them do it. So many important announcements were made at mealtimes round our massive dining table. I'm not sure it was always the best place, but at least you could guarantee that we were all there at the same time and you could get our attention - especially if you moved the plate away just as we tried to eat.
That was one of my father's favourite tactics when I was too absorbed in demolishing a piece of cake. There are still marks on the table from the times I dug my fork into it, having missed the plate because my father had pulled it away to get his message through. Those were good days. Now, when my parents come to visit me, because there is no room for a dining table we all end up sitting on the couch, paying more attention to not dropping anything than to the conversations going on.
Anyway, I tried to cut down on my bad eating habits and started off my day with a cup of plain warm water, but when I went back to my doctor he looked at my tongue and shook his head. "Guess you will just have to get married and move to a bigger house with a dining room," he laughed. Hmph. I didn't think it was that funny. firstname.lastname@example.org