The Family Dinner

by , under History, Online Research, Tradition

Lately, with all the focus on the runup to the 2016 Presidential Election, I have been somehow reminded about my family sitting around the dinner table in the mid-1950s discussing topics ranging from family developments to national news of the day. Mind you, I don’t recall any specific topics, but only that Dad and Mom and my sister and brother shared information and opinions. I doubt that we got into any heavy political discussions during this period which encompassed the presidency Dwight Eisenhower.

We did sit around the kitchen table for dinner on a pretty regular basis–and that is what I remember.

Today, I ran across an article produced by National Public Radio (Tuesday, Feb 16) entitled “No Place For Discontent’: A History Of The Family Dinner In America.” It began thusly:

In homes across the United States, families sit down around their dining tables to share a meal together known as the Family Dinner. This can be a joyous occasion or a contentious one. Whether you feel warm and fuzzy or grit your teeth at the thought, the family dinner is an opportunity for familial communication that didn’t always exist.

The article went on to discuss how the family dinner table came about in America, and how it was idealized during the 1950’s:

The 1950s emphasised the importance of a happy nuclear family. And what better place to showcase it than at a dining room table? Father sits at the head of the table; mother is at the opposite end. They’re flanked by their docile children, as shown on TV shows like Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best.

You might want to go here to read the online version of the report to learn how the family dinner tradition began in American. Also, for the historical illustrations, photos, and a video that illustrate its development.




  1. Amy Kenneley

    My “family dinners” were with a great grandmother, grandfather and sometimes, mother. They were pretty silent affairs, with small talk occasionally.But holiday dinners were something else, with younger cousins to entertain, the women finishing up the meal fixings, the men sitting in a haze of cigarette smoke, talking sports. Once I had a family of my own, I appreciated the chance to have lots of talking all at once, the hubbub of children growing up…and finally one day…a dishwasher!


Leave a Reply

  • Follow Me

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.