Living with the English (part seven)

Commensality. Fancy word, huh?? Means fellowship at table; the act or practice of eating at the same table. {source}

I've been thinking about why eating with T's family seems different than eating with, say, my parents. It should be the same, right?? Eating is more or less the same function for everyone.

But then again, it's not.

What I've been missing when having dinner with T's family is exactly commensality; although I didn't know there was a word for it. I learnt that from reading Watching the English by Kate Fox.

In Denmark, when you sit down to have dinner, you also sit down to spend time with your co-diners. So, once you have eaten your food, you don't necessarily hurry to get up and get the table cleared of any trace of a meal having taken place.

Yes, it almost seems like eating is something of a chore and not one you take pleasure in here in England. Specifically sharing a meal with someone.

In Denmark, I am starting to realise, sharing a meal with someone has a very key ingredient called hygge (not exclusive to eating, although food is not unlikely to be present in hygge), defined as spending quality time with family and friends, in a relaxed atmosphere {source}.

It's not uncommon for Danes to remain seated at the table, just talking about this and that, long after the actual meal is over.

In England it's almost like there's something sordid about having a conversation at a table, especially one that still shows the tell-tale signs of a meal. Conversations must take place while seated in sofas or chairs, but not at the table.

And Lord have mercy on you if you don't use coasters and place mats!! What's up with that?? I don't think I know anyone in Denmark who uses either unless it's to add a splash of colour to a table. Not as a practical measure...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 posted by Wardi @ 3:30 PM