Chapter Twelve
The Family Meal and
Its Significance in
Global Times

Alex McIntosh

Families and the meals they eat vary in nature over time and space. Were researchers able to observe these during the Roman Empire or the early Middle Ages, they might find the view quite alien. Similarly, a look at families and the meals they eat across the cultures of today's world would also yield a number of surprises. Presently, the family as an institution is undergoing what many consider to be fundamental and perhaps fatal changes. This is occurring at a time in which much of the world's cultural diversity has diminished as a result of the last several centuries of colonialism and the increase in international connections, particularly in this century. Both families and meals have altered because of these forces. Today, the world is confronted by even greater homogenizing processes through what is called globalization. This major turning point has fundamentally altered production and labor practices, consumption patterns, and cultural traditions. There is some concern that globalization will further weaken the family and its meals. Part of the attraction of families is the role they play in the socialization of children. The concern expressed over the disappearing family meal lies in its perceived role in promoting family solidarity and contributing to the socialization of children.

In order to address globalization and its possible impacts on families and meals, it is necessary to understand the importance of the family as a social institution and the role the family meal plays in it. After a brief discussion of these, I move to an abbreviated history of the Western family's meal patterns and child-rearing practices and the part that meals play in these, then to those of the present-day third world. A brief discussion of globalization


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Food in Global History
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