TV Dinner

When I was a kid, we picked up fast food on the way home from gymnastics just about every night. Except Fridays. On Fridays, we had pizza from this place.

They knew us quite well there.

But with very few exceptions, we almost always ate dinner in front of the TV. We’d let out a collective groan when we “had” to eat at the table (e.g., Thanksgiving). I mean, how uncomfortable is that? So much easier and way more fun to watch TV and eat. We even had some pretty sweet TV trays. They were, of course, some kind of plastic I think, but made to look like wood. Very cool and very 1980s.

I wish this had been my TV tray!

When I got older, I began to wonder what it would be like to have family dinners at the table and talk about our days. I don’t mean to say that we didn’t talk, but the TV was always the fifth member of the family. When I met my husband, we started eating in front of the TV until we decided that it was too easy not to talk. So we started having “normal” dinners. I am surprised at this point, more than a decade later, that I am barely able to tolerate eating in front of the TV. It’s distracting. And loud. And I can’t concentrate on how my food tastes. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I like to eat slowly and talk and laugh during dinner. These dinners have become one of my most favorite parts of my day.

You might remember that my house was broken into a couple weeks back. I got pretty creeped out by it and hubs and I decided we’d ask my parents to fly in to babysit me and the house because hubs had to go to the East Coast for work for a good 2 weeks.

My parents and I get along really well. It’s easy and silly and I feel like a little kid–but in a good way. And we quickly revert back to what hubs and I now call “carpet picnics”: dinner upstairs on the carpet in front of the TV. We’ll watch Wheel or Jeopardy! (please don’t get me started on my true disdain for these shows) and the show will provide us with reason to interact. This past week, my Mom even busted out an old favorite dinner of mine from back in the day. When we didn’t have McD’s or Burger King, actually my Dad would make this dinner for us:

Midwest old school-style dinner: salmon patties, mashed potatoes and salad.

Salmon patties made with canned salmon, eggs, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and some love. Mashed potatoes made with butter and milk. And to round it out, some salad. It was quite filling and so deliciously nostalgic for me. In keeping with the spirit of things, we had a carpet picnic.

The following night, I cut a deal with my parents that I would return the favor and make dinner for us. I busted out the wok and made some killer stir fry with tofu, eggplant, bok choy, chili garlic paste and topped it off with some fresh basil. But the deal included eating at the table. And guess what? We had a great time just talking. I learned that both of my parents had dinner at the table every night.

Eggplant, tofu, 2 kinds of 'shrooms and some other business.

I think what changed things for most people was when TV started to become the newest person in the room. Hence the TV trays and I guess now some people just have TVs in their kitchens. I find this to be extremely sad. I will admit that when I’m alone, though, I will eat in front of the TV for the company. I always try to convince myself to eat with a book but never seem to get that done. It’s on my list. Because for me, TV represents the dumbing down of everyone. Including me. And unless it’s a great movie or sporting event, I really shouldn’t even turn the darn thing on.

Yogi says,

You can run after satisfaction, but satisfaction must come from within.


Question: Do you eat in front of the TV? What do you watch?



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10 responses to “TV Dinner

  1. Little Caesar’s was my first job 🙂 pizza pizza

    I love that Smurfette tray! I had the lunch box.

    You past reminds me of mine. We used to watch those game shows and have salmon patties as well.

    Now Mike and I was shows that we have on DVR during dinner. We can watch from our kitchen table but we still pull out the TV trays 🙂

  2. We only eat in front of the TV occasionally. Unfortunately we rarely get to eat dinner together (only on weekends) because my hubs works late most nights. On the weekends we go out so there is no tv (but if there is one in the restaurant it can be difficult not to get distracted by it). My family NEVER ate in front of the tv growing up. We didn’t even get cable until I was in high school and we only had one (crappy) tv in the house.

  3. Pizza! Pizza!
    Anyway, what a fun post! I’ll come and babysit your house if you promise salmon patties and delicious stir-fry. No wonder people were trying to break in.

    I was an only child and my dad was a cop, which means he sometimes had weird hours and dinners weren’t always together. When he was home, we usually ate at the table and I hated it. When he wasn’t home, I still ate at the table most of the time, but it was more relaxed. I think this says a lot more about that relationship than my relationship with TV, as to this day I can’t sit at that dining room table and eat. I feel entirely too anxious and upset. Go figure.

    Today I usually eat on my couch. Hey, I live alone and the dining room isn’t as comfortable. However, if someone’s there, I agree that TV is just a pain…unless a game is on. All bets are off at that point.

    • You’re welcome to babysit (me and ) the house anytime 🙂

      And I totally agree about sporting events–especially if it is Michigan football or Detroit Red Wings! (can’t wait for hockey!!)

  4. my parents would NOT let us watch tv while we ate. actually, food was off limits in the room with the tv when i was little. now my husband and i will watch sports every now and then with dinner (if it’s a game he’s excited about) but overall dinners are at the table…

  5. it’s funny, i’ve had exactly the opposite experience! growing up, i only ate dinner at the table, in the dining room (sometimes the kitchen) with my whole family. until we were in high school and involved in lots of activities where eating schedules shifted, we always ate together and sat and talked.

    now that i am single, i definitely am always watching tv or reading while eating. BUT once i have a family of my own i will definitely reinstate the table, no tv, policy! i think it’s a great way to connect and really enjoy a meal!

  6. Is Little Caesars good? There’s one near me, but I never tried it. I hate dominos and Papa Johns.

    I don’t watch TV while I eat because I have no TV, but I’ll be at my computer browsing the net or doing hw.

    • Even though my parents still get Little Ceasars every Friday, I wouldn’t necessarily call it good. When they come out to LA to visit, we always order from a place near my house call Beach Pizza. The ingredients are fresh and the dough isn’t too heavy.

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