Should technology be allowed during meal times?

Eating Irons and breaking bread – dining with cutlery and conversation

Paul Fisher explores the change that the lack of an enforced central mealtime and increased use of technology have had on eating habits

The following video, a marketing stunt from Dolmio, exemplifies the effect technology has had on the household and provides a rather amusing solution to get family to come together.


Click on the image to see the video

As a very small boy I was used to eating my meals which were beautifully cooked by my dear Ma. The food was always of interest, using my hands, like most small boys I would eat almost anything that was put in front of me. Children nowadays are different – but more on that later!

So, there I was at the age of about three with a knife and fork to contend with. Being a “nice” family, I was shown how to hold the knife and fork and eventually managed to eat a reasonable meal balancing peas onto my fork with the points down rather than like a shovel. The knife was held it its own proper way and not like a pen. This helped with the cutting action and made complete sense.

The need to make conversation during school lunches honed my social skills. We sat at long tables with benches with a master at one end and a lunch monitor who would collect the meals. The master then dished out the meals and we were expected to eat what was given to us. We all knew the menu rota and what the dish of the day was, together with what was the meal for the following day.

As students we enjoyed our meals in a convivial way talking about things such as the latest James Bond Corgi car, who had one and who, sadly, didn’t.

Today, I see that there is a vast difference between what was expected and happened in the sixties and what happens now.

Dolmio2Today, I see young children holding their forks in such a way that it would take the rest of this blog to describe the contortions that their left hand has to endure just to hold the fork. A family member, not the Fisher side, holds his fork in his right hand. He uses the time before eating his food to slice up the food on his plate into small pieces as a small child would, and in a most peculiar way whilst holding his head in his left hand as if he has the headache from hell. The fork is used a la American and serves him well in terms of calorific gain.

The current trend for snacks must have something to do with this phenomenon and I see people in restaurants not only eating improperly but also sitting in silence while they look at their phones and the latest post on Facebook or whatever.

My eldest son had a bit of a wheeze the last time he went out with a crowd of friends in that he asked for all the phones to be put into the middle of the table and the first person to look at theirs had to buy a round of drinks. Apparently, it was like watching Pavlov’s dogs as the slightest ping from the centre of the table had all eyes on whose phone had gone off. Needless to say one poor person couldn’t resist the temptation and looked – it was a bad habit that suddenly penalised him with the bill.

Is it now de rigueur to have one’s phone on continually? It appears so, and it is to the detriment of social habits and the breaking of bread amongst friends. I cannot see the benefit of sitting down to a meal and not speaking but rather texting the person next to you. This would be unheard of a couple of years ago.

I remember in the 1970’s we all used to go to the local town to meet other friends and socialise. Today this has largely been superseded by tweets, and other “social media”. I think the world is a sadder place for it and I believe that there will at some point be a “road to Damascus” revelation that it is better to act normally and socialise whilst holding your knife and fork as God intended.

Paul Fisher is Elior’s Director for the Education sector. Paul has spent the past 38 years in the industry working across all markets and has spent the past 10 years in education.

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