Short blog entry by Jacques Attali on statistics about shared meals in “Western Civilizations.”
Conversation avec Jacques Attali: Dînons ensemble
The main claim is that France is still at the top of the list of places where people do enjoy shared meals. Still, Attali does mention some of the realities hidden by those statistics.
Interestingly enough, several of the comments on this entry are about other parts of the world where food consumption is an important social activity, including parts of Asia and Africa.
To me, a basic part of ethnography has to do with groups formed at meals. In some cases, it might be a group of relatives considered as a “household” or “family unit.” In other contexts, meal sharers might consider themselves to be part of the same social group, as when all members of the same age-set eat together.
There’s also the shared consumption of non-nutritional items like tea and alcohol. Perhaps because of my passion for both coffee and beer, I find the process of having coffee or beer with someone else one of the most pleasurable experiences one can have. The complex aromas of those drinks do enhance the experience and the fact that their nutritional value isn’t the main point of their consumption makes the event less utilitarian than socially consequent.
No idea if there are statistics on shared consumption of drinks but they clearly represent an important domain for the study of social life.