/ Food & Drink

TV dinner or table diner – how do you eat yours?

Do you eat at the table every evening? Or do you have it on your lap in front of the telly more often than not? We may all have good intentions to eat at the table every night, but how many of us actually do it?

It’s dinner time. The table is set, complete with placements, napkins, flowers and a candle. That’s how I do dinner in my household.

However, according to sofa firm DFS, more than half of us choose to eat our evening meal on the sofa, off our laps. It’s cosy, but I’m not sure it encourages us to eat together and talk through our daily problems.

In an ideal world I imagine we’d all like to share dinner with loved ones at a table on a regular basis. But I wonder what – if anything – is holding us back from making this a way of life? Is it a cultural shift or a practical consumer issue relating to our living space and eating habits?

Dining tables are a luxury

How many people really have room for a dining table these days? I live in a pretty space-confined flat, but my Indian wood table is my pride and joy.

Perhaps people consider a table a luxury piece of furniture? After all, it’s a lot of money to spend if you’re not going to use it everyday. Or maybe it’s the fact that we’re getting used to a microwave-dinner and take-away lifestyle. If you’ve not prepared the meal from scratch, it can feel a bit over-the-top to sit at the table and sup on your microwave-feast!

Eat together, stay together

There are a few reasons I like to sit at the table – the main one being that it’s a sacred time of day to enjoy food and talk to the important people in your life. In addition to this, it’s practical and hygienic.

Growing up, my mum would always insist on eating at the table. Even if the meal was a takeaway (which was a rare treat), the meal was a formal occasion and one to be enjoyed together. If there were too many of us to eat in one go, we’d have two sittings – youngest first, older ones second!

The Big Lunch

Communities across the UK are celebrating the idea of eating together with The Big Lunch scheme – a day to encourage local communities to eat together and take on community issues together. Having skimmed through some photos on The Big Lunch gallery, the reliable table seems to be a reoccurring theme, and one that represents people coming together to enjoy food.

I think The Big Lunch is a powerful concept and one that should be adopted (on a smaller scale of course) within our daily lives. Would you enjoy spending more meal times around the table? Or are you happy to wind-down in front of the telly?


Although I live alone, I do eat at the table more often than not. I confess to occasional lapses into TV / lap dining, usually in the depths of winter when it’s much warmer to sit by the gas fire than in the dining room.

In better weather (and it doesn’t have to be hot, just dry) I eat at the garden table as often as I can.

When my other half, mother or any visitors are here we certainly use the table (dining or garden) every time we eat without fail – it’s worth heating the dining room for more than one.

I regularly have dinner parties for up to 6 guests, and the dining (or garden) table is central to these events of course.

Modern houses / flats do have a space issue I agree (I’m lucky to be in a 1920’s semi with a proper dining room of ample size for family dining), but I do think that the craze for knocking rooms through and building houses with lounge / diners or kitchen / diners has encouraged people to take up more space than is necessary with the lounge or kitchen parts of these rooms, squeezing the dining part out. A work colleague (who I hope is at the extreme end of the spectrum on this!) got rid of his dining table in order to put a pool table in. His wife, needless to say, was less than impressed and I think he had to work hard to keep a wife at all!

I confess that when alone I often watch TV whilst eating, but for decades now portable or small TV’s have been readily available and it has been ‘normal’ for years for houses to have more than one telly, so I’m sure that anyone who wanted to could have a TV in their dining room / area if this is an issue. (I only have one TV and simply wheel it into the dining room if I want to watch something specific).

So, all in all, yes I’m a huge fan of dining at the table, with family or friends or partner and I agree that it does encourage proper family interaction ….. it also encourages better eating habits and much better digestion!!!! I’m often horrified when I see students where I work who have no idea whatever of how to hold or use a knife and fork – and it’s quite common to find them buying food in the cafe and then rather than sit at a table, go and sit cross-legged on the floor, trying to balance a plate on their lap ….. I’m sure this comes from growing up in a non-table household.

Unless it’s an occasional lunchtime sandwich, we take all meals at the dining table and I lay it up properly for dinner. If the weather is agreeable we eat at a table in the garden [only once this year unfortunately]. I endorse everything Charlotte and Dave are saying about social behaviour. The television is never on while we are having a meal [and to reciprocate we don’t watch any programmes where people are having a meal on television].
Charlotte makes the important point about hygiene: with the best will in the world, and with the best tray or fold-up TV-table on the market, something [usually something greasy] is going to end up on the settee [or couch if you are reading this in the USA]. DFS are happy with this because it promotes the renewal of sofas. Just as archaeologists today pore over shards and particles to discern the Ancient Briton’s diet, in many centuries’ time an old sofa found in a landfill site will yield a fascinating glimpse into the lives of our contemporaries with wine stains, dried peas, chocolate wrappers, coins, buttons and skeins of fluff.
Whenever I watch property programmes on TV, or look at properties through Rightmove, I notice how many houses have super dining set ups with a nice wood table, six chairs, all the accoutrments, and a sideboard or dresser [plus a stylish hostess trolley and a fondue set in some cases] but it seems that these are seldom used for their intended purpose. If you call on people on the off-chance, the dining table is being used for homework or is covered in books, magazines and laundry waiting to be ironed, or is underneath a jigsaw that advances at one piece a week.

Until I moved out of home at 19, my parents always encouraged us to eat dinner at the table. When I was a teenager it seemed a bit of a drag, but now I appreciate the value of that time and enjoy a good family get-together!

However, in my own flat, despite owning a nice dining set, we only really use it for guests and for the odd occasion when we’re on our own. When we come home from a long day, we like to relax with a TV program and a meal, but if we had kids, I’d definitely follow tradition by having dinner at the table.

In our house the main meal is at the table, lunch is in front of the computer! The evening news is on record and we can watch the TV from the table. This way we can eat at the table and watch the news on a stop/start fast forward basis. I always thought that eating sitting at a table was more a health issue than social, sitting in the armchair bending over a plate on your lap cramps the stomach and hinders proper digestion. Balancing the wine and remote plus having to get up to do the washing up also comes into play.