Pass the Turkey, please! Soon these words will be heard at tables across America. OK, I agree many probably won’t say please. It seems that appreciation and gratitude are diminishing with each new generation. Those of my age wonder what happen to the table rules. Then we realize like all generations before that rules always change. How many remember the Family Dinner rules growing up in the 60’s and 70’s? Here’s six I remember:
First Rule – No one starts eating until everyone is at the table. The dinner bell or the parental scream “It’s dinner time!” Would ring through the house, and usually always at the same time. The family would gather around the table in the dining room. Yes, there was a dedicated room in most houses for its occupants to eat in and these rooms had no televisions. Yes, for many this is incomprehensible. The picture hanging over the buffet was the only visual escape from the family members gathered around the table. We did not have a buffet or a picture, however, our wallpaper was very hypnotic.
Second Rule – Saying Grace and being thankful was required at all meals not just the fourth Thursday in November. Growing up in a large Catholic family one learns many prayers, and the one before meals never leaves one’s mind. Once I tested the power of grace by just pretending to say grace, and sure enough, after the soup, Mom served Liver and Onions. I was sure this was a spiritual disciplinary action for faking grace. The Nuns at school would not endorse or deny that observation.
Third Rule – Saying Please, and Thank you, was mandatory for every request and acknowledgment. If not, the dinner conversation would quickly involve a lecture on the merits of being polite, so those of us with large families heard this lecture repeated many times. Also, any thoughts of cursing at the dinner table were extinguished by the fear of the cursing punishment involving a paddle and obviously no dessert. Dinner time parenting was quite popular in the 60’s and 70’s. Dinner was the baby boomer’s reality T.V. Many discoveries of childhood misbehaving came to light as the family ate. Sometimes family meals would turn into Family Court. Mom and Dad as judges and six siblings as witnesses. My brother and I even with Dad’s vote would never win any masculine arguments. Although Dad would sometimes use his veto power in our favor.
Fourth Rule – No playing at the table, you were there to eat. One reason for this is, in those days kid’s toys were physical objects. App’s and The Cloud did not exist. So, surely, I am not the only kid who put the mash-potatoes in a Tonka dump truck with the intent to push it from plate to plate. How many Remember dinner time roughhousing with a sibling? Watching your parent’s facial expressions as your tall glass of milk, however, accidental goes flying towards Dad’s end of the table. Yes, spilling milk during roughhousing at dinner could lead to corporal punishment and nearly all instances of this would cause parental cursing reminding all us kids of the words which were banned from the table. I believe this trauma is why Baby Boomers stopped drinking milk when they left home, and why many find comfort in the occasional swearing as they eat.
Fifth Rule – Everything on your plate must be consumed or no dessert. I used to think about how many kids went dessert less on the night their Mom served liver and onions. Do you ever wonder if the nights you had bad dinners like pea soup, liver, and onions, or the unknown casserole? Were purposely planned to save money on dessert cost, and did you notice that when dinner was good, the dessert was Jell-O or something you would not mind missing out on. How many remember the stalling consumption tactic? Moving food around the plate or creating some form of food art while waiting for the right time to sneak a handful of food to the family poodle. Many dogs growing up in the 60” and 70” s ate well under their family’s table. Of course, I am sure these dogs complained they only got the food no one else wanted and hardly ever got dessert. Not eating or playing with your food would lead your parents to begin your education about all the starving kids in the world. Kids who would be happy to eat your liver and onions. I used to think to myself if those starving kids prayed hard enough maybe my liver and onions would disappear off my plate and show up on theirs. The next day at school those thoughts were quickly put to rest by Nuns.
Sixth Rule – Never leave the table without saying “May I please be excused from the table.” Once the meal was over, you must be excused. I used to think about what would happen if permission to leave the table wasn’t granted. Or, how many kids spent the night in their dining room. This rule I am sure was enacted to give parents one more opportunity to prove they were in charge. So, how old were you when you stopped asking to leave the table? Or, if you are a Baby Boomer here’s something fun to do the next time you are invited to a dinner party. Ask the host “Can I please be excused from the table.” The conversation that follows will be nostalgic, and you will learn much about the host and the other attendee’s family dinners.
Each generation will modify the rules to eliminate those inconveniences caused by societal evolution, and thankfully so. Otherwise, cooks could still be beheaded if the King didn’t like his dinner.
Well, the 60’s and 70’s table rules have faded. The younger generation has filtered or eliminated the inconvenient rules and replaced them with new rules, rules many grandparents will never understand. Yes, times have changed. The previous generations will always believe the new generation’s rules are so much more lenient than the rules of their generation. Each generation will modify the rules to eliminate those inconveniences caused by societal evolution, and thankfully so. Otherwise, cooks could still be beheaded if the King didn’t like his dinner.
There should only be one rule for family dining. That rule is this. Enjoy the opportunity to gather and respect the inconsistencies between the generational rules. Remember Kids; soon you will be responsible for creating “The New Rules.” Grandparents you too must remember how the rules of your Grandparents were quickly changed by you when it was your turn to change the rules.
OK, someone pass the Turkey. Oh, I mean Please pass the Turkey. What do you mean we are not having Turkey? It is Thanksgiving; I thought having Turkey was the rule.