With everything else Americans are threatened with losing, like freedom of speech and religious liberty, “losing dinner” seems the least of our worries. Still, we miss it. Spooning mac and cheese out of the saucepan directly into one’s mouth while standing by the stove may be efficient, but it strikes most of us as slightly barbaric.
When my husband and I married, after a two-month courtship, I didn’t know how to cook. Some experience with baking constituted my home-ec resumé, but man does not live on cookies alone (as much as my man would have liked to). As we were both enrolled in college, he insisted I sign up for a noncredit cooking class, an idea that would never have occurred to me. His instinct for self-preservation might have prompted the suggestion, but in practical terms, that was the best class I ever took—much preferable to food poisoning.
My first kitchen was smaller than the average walk-in closet, with an 18-inch-square gas oven and a homemade countertop. Starting with that, I produced at least one meal per day, seven days a week. My prowess expanded to two meals per day once we had kids, and three meals after we started homeschooling them.
Three meals at home every day might have been a rarity then, but even more so now. The decline in families eating dinner together—less than 50 percent on a regular basis—naturally corresponds with the decline in families. But even happily married couples with well-adjusted children sit down to a meal much less often than they did 50 years ago. An Atlantic article titled “How Americans Lost Dinner” blames fractured schedules and less time at home for much of the loss. Less time; more takeout. Millennials who eagerly signed up for meal-kit services like Blue Apron found that it took too much time to unpack the box, cook, and clean up. Or even to remember to collect the box. “Right now,” the article begins, “a box of food from a meal-kit company is probably moldering in my apartment building’s mail room.”