The first thing I thought when I read this article by Amanda Marcotte was that either she – or Slate – are on the payroll of the American Restaurant Association. Let us abandon that line, and simply stipulate that Slate.com is in the business of purveying linkbait, and that is all this is.
There is nothing easy or quick about a home-cooked dinner. It can be a huge pain, especially if you are cooking for less than three or more than four. But if we are going to assess the costs, we also must weigh the benefits. Home cooked dinners are generally not only more nutritious than comparably-priced restaurant food, they also serve to deepen the connection among family members, as they often represent the only time of the day when everyone is together and not getting ready to rush off elsewhere. Getting kids and adults together is miserably difficult, and in the case of teenagers, a decent feed is often the only way to yank them out of their electronically isolated mind-caverns.
The family meal is also a time when you train your kids how to act like ladies and gentlemen, how to hold a civilized conversation, how to treat others (including the siblings they hate with a passion) with a modicum of decency and respect, and a hundred other behaviors and traits that will form them in life. Are those things not priceless? Are they not at the very heart of what it means to be a parent.
Yes, there are things we could do to make it easier for low-income and two-working-parent families to cook at home. But let’s talk about those things, and not about abandoning the home-cooked dinner to the Merchants of Fat simply because it is easier. No, cooking is not convenient. Nor is pregnancy, changing a diaper, doctor’s visits, braces, driving a carpool, giving up your evenings and weekends to school nights, homework, sports, scouts, or any of dozens of activities that you only take on as a parent.
But as much as taking the kids to soccer or being a little league coach, the family dinner is an indispensible part of being a parent. If you don’t want to cook because it is messy, inconvenient, and nobody is grateful, the problem is not the family meal. The problem lies elsewhere.