Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Lot has been written about the disintegration of the once "cherished" advantages of the undivided family system that was in vogue in most societies in India. The catastrophic effects of nuclear families which emerged as a consequence of modern industrial era are there for every body to see, with old people left to fend for themselves, children becoming a society problem and the deleterious influence of industrial foods, most of them nutritionally unbalanced on the health of the population. These are inevitable consequences of a fast disintegrating society that is chasing the proverbial mirage called "material comfort"and there is no ready answer as to how this trend can be arrested, if not reversed. Probably the old time can never be here again and will remain as a sweet memory for those who still cherish them.
One of the most debilitating influences of industrialization is on the dietary practices and if the so called junk foods have become omnipotent in the market the major culprit is the family disintegration with mom, pop and children going their own way, apparently having their own pre-occupations. Which working mom has the time to devote to preparation of elaborate foods in the kitchen when professional work demands much of her time? Which dad will go to the kitchen to spend time for making good food? Where is the common time for the parents and the kids to eat together on the same dining table? No wonder "eating out" has become a "soft" option for majority of parents and restaurants, food trucks, street vendors etc are all rolling in money capitalizing on this social "mutation"!
It is said that when mom cooks a meal and serves to the family the quality of the food is less important but the emotion that goes along with the food is manifested in bonding and affection. Can any restaurant serve "love" through the food and even if it is possible through nice and courteous service, such love will be for the restaurant promoting a sense of loyalty to it. To add to the already bad situation, modern apartment designs are progressively shrinking the size of kitchens under the pretext that the family is unlikely to spend much time there! It is true that modern kitchen gadgetry has significantly reduced the drudgery in cooking but the family has to still spend time in deciding the logistics of sourcing the grocery items which is not an easy task. The great "Cooking Gas" supply dynamics prevalent in India can be dampener to any cook earnest in taking up regular cooking!
Many social psychologists feel that sharing a family meal is an important way that will serve to devote time to the children and same is true with kids who recognize the importance of eating with their family that enables them to know their family members better. In a recent survey in Europe carried out by food industry, it came out that more than 80% of the parents felt a feeling of closeness with their children when meals are prepared and shared on the same dining table. On the other hand kids felt that they are much closer to their parents than they thought earlier. Interestingly sharing a low quality meal does not evoke the same feeling among the family members which may be due to the influence of balanced food on positive emotions and euphoria.
Whether going to a restaurant which serves high quality food will have the same effect is doubtful because such eating places do not ensure privacy and closeness unlike the home environment. Also how frequent such family meals will be necessary to have the positive effect depends on the life style followed by different families. However even once a week "eating together" session can have dramatic impact on family bonhomie. Is it not possible for the parents to involve the children in menu planning on such occasions to create a feeling of participation and such family meals must be well planned as per a fixed schedule with no interruption at any cost. The "idiot box" of to day can destroy what ever little time available for family meeting and it is best avoided during eating together sessions. Traditionally Indians are known to have frequent festivals, family functions when distant relatives meet and societal feasts where relations are revived but within a nuclear family, especially those types with both parents working, adequate time is invariably not found for eating together. It is incumbent on the parents of to day make conscious attempts to "knit together" their families through such "bonding" activities for which adequate time must be found.

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