Dining-rooms and dining-room tables are rapidly disappearing as homes and habits change. (Photo credit: Dinsmore Homestead)

Dining-rooms and dining-room tables are rapidly disappearing as homes and habits change. (Photo credit: Dinsmore Homestead)

The Editor’s Desk: Dining-room table blues

Does your house have a dining-room table, or even a dining-room? For many the answer is no

If you’re reading this within easy walking distance of your dining-room table, take a moment to go and look at it. I’ll wait.

Hello again! I now have a question: if everyone currently living in your household decided to eat at the table right now, would they be able to do so without having to clear away some unopened mail, advertising flyers, one glove that is missing its mate, a random piece of computer equipment, a Christmas ornament that got missed when the decorations were packed away, a worksheet dated “Complete and return no later than Feb. 5”, a houseplant that still needs a permanent home, or anything else not necessary to the act of eating a meal?

Do you even have a dining-room table? For that matter, do you actually have a dining-room? I ask because the dining-room table is apparently going the way of the passenger pigeon, and the room that once housed it is likewise disappearing, joining other once-common spaces such as the pantry, the front parlour, and the root cellar.

The plummeting popularity of both is attributable to changing fashions in the way we live now. Dining-rooms have, since Roman times, been an indicator of wealth: only those with sufficient means to build or buy a large residence had space for a room dedicated solely to eating. Working-class folk had smaller houses, so meals were taken in either the kitchen or in a common eating/living room, where the main life of the house played out.

Dining-rooms were incorporated into the homes of the middle- and upper-classes, to show that the owners had well and truly arrived, and this fashion carried on into the early 20th century, when labour-saving appliances began taking the place of servants and became status symbols of their own. Kitchens became bigger, to house all the new gadgets, and eventually grew large enough to house a second, more informal dining-table, sometimes in what was specifically called a breakfast nook.

Gradually these kitchen tables became the most convenient places to eat informal meals like breakfast and lunch. Dining-rooms became the preserve of the evening meal, and soon not even that in many cases, as family members ate at different times according to busy schedules. Houses grew smaller as people turned instead to more affordable, but less spacious, options, where the idea of devoting an entire room just to eating was a waste of precious space.

Single-family homes also underwent a change, from a place of regimented rooms clearly separated from each other by walls and doors to open-plan spaces where rooms went seamlessly from one to another. The dining-room became a corner of the living-room, which in its turn became the great room or living area: a single space where a formal dining-room table with matching chairs and sideboard looked as out of place as a four-poster bed in a studio apartment.

It’s a shame, in a way, as the dining-rooms of the houses I grew up in were lovely, stately places. They weren’t Downton Abbey-esque by any stretch of the imagination, but they were faintly museum-like, with a huge glass-fronted cabinet containing china that was only brought out on Very Special Occasions, and a crystal chandelier that accompanied us whenever we moved. It was always a room of stillness and calm, as was the adjoining living-room. We lived our everyday lives in the family room, where the comfortable chairs and the TV and the stereo were, but I used to love curling up with a book in the peace and quiet of the living-room, secure in the knowledge that I would not be disturbed.

Thus it is that dining-room tables, once ubiquitous, are quietly disappearing from the landscape, replaced by kitchen tables and breakfast bars. If you still have one, and fancy a treat, clear it off, break out some place mats, and see if your meal tastes just a little bit better.



editorial@accjournal.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Columnist

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
54 more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty-two people in the region are in hospital with the virus, 11 of them in intensive care

The freed osprey keeps a wary eye on its rescuers after being deposited on its nest. (Photo credit: Greg Hiltz)
Hydro crew in Ashcroft gets osprey rescue call-out they won’t soon forget

Bird was tangled in baling wire hanging from a hydro pole, necessitating a tricky rescue

Hesco baskets were first used outside the Cache Creek fire hall in 2020 (pictured), and have once again been put in place as a pre-emptive measure to safeguard the hall against possible flooding. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Cache Creek taking pre-emptive measures to prevent flooding

Sand and sandbags will soon be available for all residents who need them

Clinton council has approved a request to allow limited youth sports activity at Reg Conn Park and Elliott Park. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Clinton council okays use of playing fields for youth sports

Clinton Minor Sports Association gets green light for use of Reg Conn and Elliott Parks

The proposed site of the new Loon lake fire hall, on the site of the former provincial park. (Photo credit: TNRD)
Construction of new Loon Lake fire hall delayed because of cost

Lowest tender more than double the estimated cost of the project

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP, investigating explosion in Harewood, also came across an alcohol still on the property

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. sees 1,006 COVID-19 cases Thursday, ‘alarming’ 502 in hospital

Vaccine bookings for people aged 60 and older set to start

Shannon Zirnhelt, from left, her son Lockie, 3, Julia Zirnhelt, 13, and Ella Krus, 13, co-founders of Third Planet Crusade are featured in a music video set to air on Earth Day, April 22, 2021. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
VIDEO: B.C.-made music video launched in time for Earth Day 2021

Singer songwriter Shannon Zirnhelt worked with Third Planet Crusade on the project in the Cariboo

Ambulance crews have been busy with a record number of emergency overdose calls this Wednesday, April 21. (BC Emergency Health Services)
B.C. paramedics responded to a record 138 overdose calls in a single day

Wednesday’s calls included 48 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and 51 in Fraser Health

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. COVID-19 hotspots targeted as AstraZeneca vaccine runs low

17,000 appointments booked the first day for people aged 40 and up

Dresses hang outside Nelson city hall as part of the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
B.C. red dresses symbolizing missing, murdered Indigenous women vandalized a 2nd time

Nelson’s REDress Project was vandalized along with an outdoor installation on Vancouver Island

A nurse loads a syringe with a vaccine for injection at the Victoria Clipper Terminal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout not enough to bring back normal life by fall: report

Only 51% of the population will be protected under B.C.’s current rollout, SFU professors say more vaccinations are needed to achieve herd immunity

Letisha Reimer, 13, was killed Nov. 1, 2016 in a stabbing at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
UPDATED: Second-degree murder conviction stands for Abbotsford school killer

Judge finds that Gabriel Klein is criminally responsible for death of Letisha Reimer

Most Read