When I was a kid, dinner happened every day at 6pm around our kitchen table. It didn't matter if we had friends over or if my parents had work or a meeting. Family dinners were not optional. For most of my childhood, I took this for granted. I had a mom who never worked outside the home and a dad who worked from home or at an office within 5 minutes from our house. It was only as I got older, in high school, that friends started to comment how nice it was that our family all gathered together and sit down to have a meal together at the end of the day.
For me, it was just the way things were.
We all live busy, busy lives and making sure everyone can get to dinner together can sometimes be an impossibility. In our own home today we try and make sure we've kept this lovely tradition alive. I race home from downtown every day so that we can get dinner on the table and all eat together. It's a chance to communicate with one another and share our stories. It's one of my favourite heartwarming parts of parenting.
While a lot of this is patterned after my own home growing up, as a child of the TV generation, a lot of this is also patterned after shows that pumped us full of the notion that a kitchen is the heart of a home. A place where jokes are told and experiences are shared and stories are told. Where families meet and gather and socialize.
Here are my most memorable TV show family kitchens:
1) The Cosby Show
The Cosby family kitchen always seemed to have so much laughter around the table. Cliff seemed to always be having a not-too-serious conversation with the kids or one of their friends about topics like school marks, friendships or chores in a way that made me want to crawl through the TV set and join right in.
2) Growing Pains
Did any story originate on Growing Pains outside of the kitchen? Mike torturing Carol over dinner, Mike drinking out of the milk carton, Ben whining about this, that and the other. The Seavers showed us how families that don't always get along can still sit down to dinner together.
3) Who's The Boss?
Maybe it's because I had a mega-crush on Alyssa Milano... but Who's The Boss was always one of my favourites. Whether Mona was dropping in for a late night chat in the kitchen or the kids were grabbing a snack on their way out the door, the kitchen was always front and centre—a place where you could sit down and talk through your problems with people who'd lend an ear. Or maybe for me it was because Tony Danza was blazing a trail showing that men could be manly and still cook?
4) Family Ties
It seems during every episode of Family Ties there was a scene with Alex quizzing Andy on taxation theory at the dinner table. It wasn't just the two of them though, dinner around the Keaton table seemed so wonderful with a splash of comedy thrown in. Each of them brought a different personality to the mix, with Alex providing the edge to prod the best lines out of each of them.
5) Brady Bunch
The great controversies between the girls and the boys or the older kids and the younger kids always had me choosing sides and rooting for one group or another on the Brady Bunch. Mom and dad were always there to help resolve everything once the dust had settled, with Alice serving up a homemade pie for everyone to enjoy as they laughed over their quarrels. Sure it was served with a giant heap of idealism—but it was fun watching none-the-less.
What about you? What are your favourite TV kitchens?