Sunday, December 30, 2012

How Is Your Breakfast Conversation?

How is your family breakfast table conversation? For that matter, what does your family talk about around the dinner table?

Is it lively, with everyone tossing pebbles into the conversational pool? Or is the television on with everyone facing it? If the kids have grown up and left home, what do you talk about at the table? I really want to know because R.H. and I have settled into a habit of the television being our honored guest.

At breakfast I like to flip back and forth between the network news shows while R.H. prefers cable news. At supper I'd prefer House Hunters while he'd still prefer cable news or a football game or something from the Military channel. That's why I keep a book on the table to prop up before me.

A couple of years ago I made an effort one morning to turn off the television and have good conversation at the table after reading Leslie Brenner's fascinating book, American Appetite. A Frenchman that she interviewed told her, "It's boring to dine in America--there's nothing going on. In France, they're totally inseparable, dining and talking. Why does lunch on Sunday at my parents' house go on for three hours...? Because people are talking."

Here is what I remember of our conversation after we ate silently for a few minutes, watching the birds, squirrels and chipmunks feeding outside the glass doors.

Me, in sentimental tone: "I've been reading the early 1950's diaries of that Washington D.C. man about their first trip to Florida. They took two weeks and traveled down the east coast and back up the west coast, and it just really gives the flavor of the 'old' Florida. It's so neat."

R.H., in loud furious excited tone: "I know. Damn foreigners, they ruined Florida. Blah, blah, blah..."

Me, screeching: "Stop! Stop! I was just trying to have a civilized conversation. I don't want to listen to a broken record."

R.H., sulking: "Well, we just won't talk then."

That went well, don't you think?

Of course, I know that nothing like that ever happens at your house. And if it does, we can always blame it on that monster television for destroying the American family. But did it, really? If so, why did M.F.K. Fisher write this chilling description in the May 1948 issue of House Beautiful?

"...our boulevards are lined with an infinity of bad eating houses
filled with dead-faced people placed like mute beasts in their stalls."

What? Do you really think these mute beasts went home to a good home-cooked meal, angelic children around the table and suddenly turned into Ozzie and Harriet, conversation flowing like a merrily babbling brook? Maybe so. I know that when our grown children and their spouses are here for a meal, there's rarely a pause in the conversation. I love those meals. They take ages because no one wants to leave the table and yet I know that I eat less then than when it's just me and R.H. here alone, with the television on.

Easy, you say? Simply turn off the television? We did that this morning when we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of my homemade buttermilk pancakes that you've seen the pictures of here. But then we also had the Sunday newspaper to read.

What did we talk about, though? I'm trying to remember.

Oh, yes, we talked about how wonderful the Texas red grapefruit were, that we only get them this time of the year so we had to enjoy them now and about how Kroger's had them on sale now so we needed to go back for more. Fascinating conversation.

Lest I forget, we also talked about how much we like using the old Bakelite grapefruit knives to cut through the membranes. I had to get that in so you would look in the pictures to see them.

Seriously, what do you other empty-nesters talk about at breakfast or supper? Help us out here, pretty please. A new year begins soon. I would like for 2013 to bring more conversation to our table. Fair warning, young married couples: you'll be facing this question someday. Listen in or offer your advice to us. Go ahead, don't be shy.

(Don't worry, R.H. is not only the cameraman of this blog, he reads my rough drafts too. We won't get our feelings hurt. Well, he won't anyway.)


  1. I am ashamed to say that we hardly ever have a meal together. My hubby works at the hospital and is on call a lot of the time...or doesn't know when he is going to get home. So, I usually cook and then I eat and he eats when he gets home. Our conversation usually consists of what is going on at the is not always a good conversation. He, however, is a talker so I just need to nod and say...uh-huh.

    I don't know what it will be like when he retires-rather odd. I just retired a year ago so it is getting used to a whole new way of life. Blessings to you- I hope you get lots of good advice- xo Diana

  2. Sadly, we don't eat together daily. Hubby leaves for work at 3 a.m.. I leave at 6:30 a.m.. When I return home, he is usually napping. Some evenings, we don't even see each other awake! Our youngest is 17 and on the go as well. When we do get a chance to talk, it is about our jobs, family, household issues, or politics.

  3. Interesting question...we're both retired and eat dinner together. He works out or plays pickleball in the AM and I have an exercise class, also in the AM so we don't eat breakfast together and we "nibble" rather than have lunch, so dinner is it - and it's in front of the television. Sometimes I think we don't talk as much as we should and other times I long for quiet! In general, I think retirement is an adjustment for both parties, but so far, we seem to say what we need to say at different times during the day and just let the TV do the talking in the evenings. Seems to work for us :)

  4. Dewena, Talking about grapefruit is a start. Ted and I eat breakfast with the news on...and we talk about something we just the milk prices. Ted and I always seem to have something to talk about. we may speak about our youth , something that happened growing up. Maybe you could ask your husband "what was one thing you wanted to do once you grew up?" Got to have an opener. I wish sweet conversations. xoxo,Susie

  5. Dewena, Great post!! my husband and I don't eat breakfast together during the week only on week-ends and he does all the breakfast cooking! We talk mostly about our families,future, and always talk about remodeling our home.. His coffee is the BEST!! I am blessed he does so much for me.. I loved this post!!! and loved your perfect table!! now, you gave me an idea... more grapefruit with my breakfast..

  6. I can not tell you how many bad habits we have adopted in this empty nest phase of life. We ARE the mute beasts in their stalls!

    today I bought simple place mats at Big Lots and I am going to begin anew.
    At least we can try, right?

    Happy New Year and thank you for your wonderful comment on my blog.

    White Spray Paint

  7. To be honest, Dewena, if I served pancakes that look as good as the ones in your pictures, nobody would be talking!Everyone would be just eating! (Smile)

    I know what you are going through. My husband and I didn't talk at mealtime when we were first retired. Then we decided to make our best and biggest meal lunch. Whatever we are doing we meet at 12:30 for lunch with The Andy Griffth show on so we can "laugh together" while we eat. Then we eat supper, a salad or soup, at 6:00 so we can watch local news together. My husband will mute the commercials and give me his opinion and I love to listen. It may only be a few words, but it is for me. Then after we eat, we take a cup of coffee or hot tea out on the deck and sit in the swing and talk.

    Dewena, thank you for your wonderful comment on my blog. I had surgery a few days ago and am still recovering. Your comment made my day! Best wishes for you and your family for the New Year! 2013 is going to be great!

  8. I really enjoyed this post, Dewena. We eat most of our meals in our easy chairs. In the evening we usually have a movie on, but breakfast and lunch we just enjoy each others company. Discuss important issues, or just talk about our plans for the day. It's all good. Maybe some day we'll live in a cottage with a real dining room and that might take meal conversations to a whole new level. :)

  9. First, I want some of those pancakes. They look delicious. Second, I immediately noticed those wonderful bakelite grapefruit spoons. Third, my husband and I work together all day, and although most of the conversation revolves around work, we do get in a word or 2 about other things each day. I'm afraid our meal time conversations have dissolved into mute beasts in our stalls! It may be all we are capable of after working together all day! Good post. laurie

  10. Funny post but now I want pancakes

    Not sure what the next gen will do. My son's generation of young married friends actually talk to each other on Facebook while in the same house / room sometimes..its a bit strange! : )

  11. Well, I hate to be the odd duck but when Dave was alive, we talked a lot. We'd begin with coffee in the mornings, then I'd fix breakfast when he was ready to eat. After, I'd do chores then we'd talk some more. We spent more time talking than watching television and would never consider watching television during a meal. He'd, sometimes, take business calls at mealtime but that always annoyed me. Mealtimes are sacred, at least, they were sacred.
    Now, it's catch as catch can.

  12. Hi Dewena,

    I hear you loud and clear, my friend. First off, in order to have an interesting conversation, one needs to be a good listener, even if the subject matter is not one's cup of tea. It has to do with being polite, I think. That, and not taking advantage of our partners and vice versa! After all, how many couples really share a passion for fly fishing or painting? Hence, we need to be considerate (just as we are with our friends), and comment (remind you of anything?), AND hope that they do the same for us. Of course, some people are lucky; they married their best friend, and so conversation is not only easy, but, ironically, 'non-existent' as they even take the words out of each others' mouths - love when that happens...with friends, siblings, offspring, and ideally, soul mates, husbands, not so much.

    Thanks for sharing, and relating!


    PS: My husband eats in front of the TV EVERY night. I detest this habit but succumb to it as the alternative would mean eating alone at the kitchen table. The TV news is apparently more interesting than mine.


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