Are the British losing their table manners?

LONDON, UK; 14 December 2021Hot Tea Workshop, manufacturers of furniture for small space living, consulted over 500 UK adults to discover if they eat their evening meal at a dinner table. They discovered the majority eat their food sitting on a sofa.

Only a quarter use a table in the Dining room. So, are we losing the tradition of eating at the table and why does it matter? How does this affect family interaction, healthy eating and table manners?

Social interaction

People talk more when they are seated at a table. Special occasions, such as Christmas, may help underline that being seated at the table is time to switch off the TV or mobile devices and talk to family and friends.

Graham Smith, Founder of Hot Tea Workshop, feels that a sofa meal is more like a snack better suited to fast food, “Typically everyone is facing the same direction on a sofa and concentrating on the TV. The meals tend to be simpler, basically whatever you can fit on a single plate, or they are in a take-away box.”

He adds that eating at the table is a great opportunity for families to share their day and casually discuss important issues or make informal announcements

In addition, a study by Brian Wansink, professor at Cornell University, suggests that talking and socialising at the table may suppress overeating.

Health and digestion

According to Wansink’s study, ‘Dinner rituals that correlate with child and adult BMI‘, eating at the dinner table with the family (and the TV switched off) is linked to lower Body Mass Index (BMI). In fact, the report stated that eating anywhere other than the kitchen or dining room was related to higher BMIs in both parents and children.

Other studies suggest that slouching on the couch may interfere with digestion. According to child eating specialist Dr Elizabeth Roberts at FussyAboutFood.com, children need to be seated well to eat well. She advised “Children need to sit with their hips, knees and ankles at 90 degrees. This helps support their head and jaw, which helps with chewing and swallowing.”

Sitting at the table can also identify health issues “If your child wriggles a lot at mealtimes or slides down when seated at the table, this might be a sign of poor posture as they try to sit up and stay supported.”

Good table manners

Table manners may seem to be something from the Victorian era that have no place in the modern world. But the advent of table manners can be traced back further to medieval times when the purpose was to keep food off the floor. Tearing at food with your hands was seen to be an inefficient (and perhaps unhygienic) way to consume a meal.

Food historian and author Seren Charrington-Hollins from CulinaryHistory.co.uk, laments the devise of table manners. She feels that dining-in or eating-out have become an occasion where “mobile phones rule, and cutlery and conversation seem, at best, optional”.

Seren highlights how table manners can help people, especially young adults, navigate social situations with confidence. Knowing when to talk and when to listen, eating slowly so you enjoy the food, and understanding how to eat at formal dinners are skills she believes can be learned at the family dinner table. Indeed, the most frequent question Seren is asked at fine dining events is “Which cutlery do I use?”

Good table manners can start in the kitchen. Getting everyone involved in the creation of dishes so they value the effort required and asking children to lay the table so they feel part of the ritual.

The change in our eating habits may have been driven by our busy lifestyles and smaller homes. If you have a separate dining room in your home you are lucky, it’s a luxury few in big cities or towns can afford. Plus, sometimes it’s just easier to order a take-away after a busy day.

Graham Smith suggests there is an answer, “It is possible to turn your living room into a dining room by simply adding a coffee table that converts into a dining table. We recognise that not every meal will be a dining occasion but having that option will surely improve healthy eating and social skills.”

About Hot Tea Workshop:

Hot Tea Workshop was founded in 2019 by Graham Smith. He lives with his wife in a small London flat and needed a coffee table that converted to a dining table – and that could also be used as a workstation when working from home. There was nothing suitable online, so Graham decided to design and build a solution. That is how the London Table was born.

Research results:

561 UK adults took part in the research conducted in January 2020.

“Where in your home do you normally eat your evening meal?”

Sitting on the sofa – 54.1%

Dining room table – 23.7%

Kitchen table – 19.1%

Sitting on the bed – 3.2%

For further information or PR enquiries, please contact:

W: www.hotteaworkshop.com

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