Family meals are essential! Discussion on Relevant Radio here.
The Slate article I reference is "Let's Stop Idealising the Home-Cooked Meal", which has some decent points:
The researchers interviewed 150 mothers from all walks of life and spent 250 hours observing 12 families in-depth, and they found “that time pressures, tradeoffs to save money, and the burden of pleasing others make it difficult for mothers to enact the idealized vision of home-cooked meals advocated by foodies and public health officials.” The mothers they interviewed had largely internalized the social message that “home-cooked meals have become the hallmark of good mothering, stable families, and the ideal of the healthy, productive citizen,” but found that as much as they wanted to achieve that ideal, they didn't have the time or money to get there. Low-income mothers often have erratic work schedules, making it impossible to have set meal times. Even for middle-class working mothers who are able to be home by 6 p.m., trying to cook a meal while children are demanding attention and other chores need doing becomes overwhelming.
Beyond just the time and money constraints, women find that their very own families present a major obstacle to their desire to provide diverse, home-cooked meals. The women interviewed faced not just children but grown adults who are whiny, picky, and ungrateful for their efforts. “We rarely observed a meal in which at least one family member didn’t complain about the food they were served,” the researchers write. Mothers who could afford to do so often wanted to try new recipes and diverse ingredients, but they knew that it would cause their families to reject the meals. “Instead, they continued to make what was tried and true, even if they didn’t like the food themselves.” The saddest part is that picky husbands and boyfriends were just as much, if not more, of a problem than fussy children.
But, that said, my point is that it's not the money and recipe's that are the problems, but the lack of desire to take part in a communal event. Even if one parent stresses the need, he or she cannot sustain it without help. Furthermore, we're so used to personalising everything (entertainment is a case in point, whereby each person listens/watches what he likes alone!) that bearing with one another and enduring what is not a favourite becomes a herculean task.
But, there is no communion without sacrifice, and no authentic love without giving something. Look at the school year to come, and make plans now to fit in meals so that the family grows together!