By: Nicole Goldstein, Rayna Kanoff & Stephanie Sargon
Before the 18th century, it was difficult for American families to dine together regularly in part because dining rooms and dining room tables were not yet a ‘thing’. Rooms and tables had multiple purposes, and families would eat in shifts. The rise of the American family dinner was made possible with the arrival of the dining room table and dining room for Europe which had been used there since Elizabethan times (1558-1603). Interestingly, one of the first homes to have a room specifically meant for dining was Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, which was built in 1772. This concept of a dining room and dining room table was then established in wealthy homes across the country and it slowly made its way into middle class homes as well.
From the mid 19th century onwards the dining room took on an even more significant role as it became a place to cultivate a sense of family, a place for families to educate their children on religion and table manners. During the wars, images of family eating were used as war time propaganda – a sign of social stability and strength. A painting by Norman Rockwell known as the Thanksgiving Picture (below) became an iconic representation of the holiday and of family gatherings in general. It was first shown in the Saturday Evening Post in 1943. By the 1950’s the dining room emphasized the Importance of a happy nuclear family.
Along with the evolution of the dining room and the dinner table, came the beginning of the evolution of travel. In 1841, the inventive Thomas Cook capitalized on the invention of the railroad and began sending hoards of tourists off on adventures. Travel until that point was burdensome as people suffered greatly on poor roads and it was also a very expensive undertaking. Nevertheless, many travel destinations remained the province of the upper classes until well into the 20th century.
Today, the family structure in the United States has witnessed many changes. The tradition of family dinners and mealtimes has reduced significantly. Moreover, the size of the household has changed for several reasons. Firstly, people are getting married at a later age – statistics show that between 1960 and 2014, the median age of first marriage went up from 22.8 years for men and 20.3 years for girls to 29.3 years and 27 years respectively. Additionally, the share of single-person households in total households nearly doubled and has been on the rise over the last 50 years especially between 1999 and 2014. During these years, there was an increase in the number of single-person households from 26.6 million to 34.2 million, meaning a 1.7% average annual increase. As seen in the graph below:
This rise in single-person households can also be attributed to the change in travel trends over the years. The evolution of travel has led to many changes in people’s lifestyles. In the 1970’s huge passenger planes began transporting people of different income groups to countries well beyond their own. Changes such as rising incomes combined with low travel costs made the idea of “international travel for everyone” possible. And with travel becoming significantly cheaper and more frequent, people, especially young people, have the ability to leave their homelands to attend schools or jobs overseas. This results in more people living alone in a rental apartments and eating out regularly.
This new dynamic leads us to another significant concern in today’s world. The increase in single-person households is further reducing the act of cooking at home and consequently increasing the act of eating at restaurants. As Michael Pollan mentions in his most recent book, Cooked “meals eaten outside of the home are almost uniformly less healthy than homemade foods, generally having higher fat, salt, and caloric content.” Sadly, the image of Norman Rockewell’s family gathering is become less and less common.
The changing family dynamics, the increase of traveling singles, and the availability of advanced electronics for people of all ages and incomes has led us to believe that the kitchen of the future could be greatly improved by the innovative concept of a homeostatic portable smart hologram. Our hologram is multifaceted and will allow the individual to travel with a digital chef or cooking companion.
The capabilities of the hologram are endless but will come standard with a “skype-like” hookup to a list of famous chefs who will provide interactive cooking classes. The hologram will also have features for personal health and nutrition. There will be a personal hemostatic measuring device that will measure each client’s vitals and propose recipes and diets based on the person’s nutritional needs. Additionally, another great feature is that the hologram’s concierge service will send out an alert when any produce or dry items are running low.
These highly advanced and interactive features will allow individuals to experience family dinners again, as well as continuing the fascination with learning about cooking and cooking shows by having their own personal chef dictating instructions at home through the means of a hologram.