June 26, 2007

Frozen Food - The Path To Family Unity

OK, I’m not kidding about this. Stouffer’s has TV commercials encouraging families to have dinner together. These dinners should be a time when the family can talk about their days and spend quality time with each other. What a novel concept, eating a meal together as a family. Without the TV on. For those of you who really do think this is a novel concept, Stouffer’s, makers of all those wholesome, processed, frozen foods has developed a section on their website where families can refer to a list of conversation topics to help them get going. Really. I’m not kidding.

I know I sound like a really old person when I say, what the hell is wrong with people these days? Dinner time was when you told your parents about the D you were getting in math. It was the place you learned phrases like “…oh for cry eye” used by Dad while he talked about his coworkers. It was where you complained about schoolmates after which your mother made you say three nice things about that person you hate so much. How can you have dinner and not talk to your family? How can you not know what to say to them? The only answer to those questions is that families don’t have dinner together to begin with. Families are no longer a unit of people living in one house. They are merely anonymous separates.

For the life of me I can’t understand how a family becomes that way. Parents should not be so busy that they can’t take two hours out of twenty-four to prepare, serve, and clean up a dinner meal. Children should not be so overextended with extracurricular activities that they have no time to spend at home for a decent meal. Why wouldn’t spending time together as a family be a priority from day one? What’s the sense of creating a family if you have no intention of nurturing it and embracing it?

In addition to that, how are children supposed to learn how to maintain a household if they aren’t home to see it done and be taught how to do it by a parent(s) who knows the ins and outs of cooking and cleaning. If you aren’t getting together for a meal, one meal, during the day, how will a child know that food can be cooked on a stovetop, in an oven, even in a microwave instead of calling in a request to a restaurant or shouting an order into the clown’s mouth. Doing the dishes after a meal is part of the package too. Back in my day we didn’t have a dishwasher, so we took turns drying dishes while Mom washed them. What’s wrong with assigning different after dinner clean-up chores to kids? Nothing. Nothing I say!

The whole Stouffer’s thing made me depressed. It emphasized the demise of the American family. It emphasized the reality of domestically-ignorant children and priority-challenged parents. It made me sad that little kids aren’t having the experience of sitting around the kitchen table with their parents and siblings, trying new food, laughing with each other, arguing with each other, and learning about each other, all which enforces a sense of belonging.

While I agree with Stouffer’s in that families should share dinner time together, I think it’s a very sad commentary on our society that a frozen food company can use the pitiful state of the American family unit as a market for their products. Face it, if we were a nation that put more priority on developing healthy family relationships and healthy families in general, and less priority on materialism and competition, we would have no need for frozen food, much less frozen food representatives telling us how to create a dinnertime scenario involving the people with whom we share a house.

Mmmmm, tasty.

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