Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rituals in the Way We Eat

After me rambling on about the successful week I had at the New Designers exhibition in London, I think it is only appropriate that I explain what my work is.

The Fable project began last September as a research project entitled Rituals in the Way We Eat. 

I started off by comparing the eating habits and rituals of British and Italian families and found that only around 55% of families in the UK spend regular time together around the dinner table at meal times. In Italy, this statistic is closer to 90%, with French, German and most other EU countries close behind. 

So why is it important to spend time together as a family at meal times?

Child psychologist and parenting expert Dr Pat Spungin, founder of Raising Kids, says the benefits of family meals are far-reaching, often surprising and should not be underestimated.

"There is often not a lot of two-way communication going on {between family members}," she says. "It is one-way from machines to child, either from the TV or computer. Kids need interaction to develop their language skills, babies can't learn to talk from a TV."

This isolation can impact on children's language skills. Researchers at Harvard University concluded that family dinners were more important to a child's language development than reading or playing with them.

But they are also important for a child's development and self esteem outside them home. A number of recent studies suggest that youngsters who regularly sit down to have family meals are less likely to indulge in pastimes associated with yob culture, such as smoking, drinking and drugs. Furthermore, they perform better at school and have fewer health problems.

"Family meals are about bonding, they give a child confidence and teach them how to behave with others," says Spungin. "This isn't only in the home but in the outside world as well."

Source: BBC News Magazine and mealsmatter.org

So I identified a problem within our society and then began researching into ways it could be prevented.

I was always aware that there could be no product or service which would completely resolve this problem. However through research I learned that encouraging a different type of interaction between a family could help lessen it, even it meant that family spending an extra few hours a week around the dinner table.

Which leads me swiftly on to my proposed solution. 

This solution is based on extensive research but was initially born with an observation I made whilst sitting with an Italian family for dinner one evening.


Imagine the stereotypical scenario of the Italian family at dinner time: Dad sitting at the end of the table whilst his wife serves him and his two sons a healthy meal of pasta, fish and cheeses; all of them talking loudly to one another as if their hearing were impaired. 

Once they all settled down, they all, as though it were rehearsed, took turns to tell a story. Whether it be about what happened at work that day, or what was on the news or what was seen out of the bus window on the way to school.

The family performed a beautiful sharing ritual of a simple story.

Which got me thinking...

A product which would encourage family's to tell stories to one another at mealtimes. Fable.


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