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Food & Dining // Table Talk
Jo McGarry

The Joys Of A Meal With Conversation

I was intrigued by a recent Star-Advertiser story on mindful eating, the Zen-like art of focusing on food one mouthful at a time. But after reading that mindful eating is best done in silence, I quickly decided that while our family might do well appreciating small bites and savoring tiny morsels, we are incapable of keeping quiet for the suggested 30 minutes. Three minutes at our dinner table would be a stretch, and 30 seconds of silence more likely. There are times at our dinner table when everyone speaks at once, anxious to share a story about their day. It’s often the reason we go out – more time to talk, less time to clean up.

But while it can get noisy, a dinner table has always seemed to me to be the perfect place to learn about the unexpected sorrows and surprises life throws our way. Regardless of how a family is made up, old and young sitting together sharing food is one of life’s simplest and most meaningful gifts.

So it really makes me wonder what our future holds when I see the alarming number of children ‘plugged in’ to iPads, computer games and videos while in restaurants.

No doubt parents see the digital distractions as a way of keeping kids quiet at the end of what may have been a long workday. But how are children ever going to learn how to socialize and behave in public when they’re constantly attached to an electronic device?

I recently watched an entire family sit down to eat without exchanging more than a few nods and grunts with wait staff. While both parents texted (and one checked Facebook!) kids were gaming and the waiter hovered around trying to make eye contact and establish some kind of rapport, without success.

Are there times when you just want to have adult conversation at dinner? Absolutely. Should children be the focus of every meal? Absolutely not. But even listening to adult interaction over dinner and hearing how grownups cope with daily trials and tribulations are important learning tools. It seems we are in danger of breeding a generation of absentee children, kids who won’t know how to treat a waiter with respect, won’t be able to add on 20 percent to a dinner check and who can’t look people in the eye when they speak because they are just about to get to the next level of Angry Birds. Children might be quieter in restaurants nowadays, but they’re missing out on some valuable learning …

* Like many of you, I’m a big fan of Happy Hour, and keep a careful eye on which bars and restaurants put their best food forward between 4 and 6 p.m. A first-rate example of an excellent Happy Hour is at Brasserie Du Vin on Bethel Street, where specials are offered at significant discounts every day.

Baked Brie, escargot and cheese plates are among the current favorites, although I can recommend the excellent mussels with French style fries. Wines start at around $7 a glass, and there’s an impressive list of beers and cocktails, which can be enjoyed at the bar, in the cask room or under the summer evening sky outside in the courtyard.

Happy eating!

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