The Role of the Family

The role of the family has changed in the last couple of decades. In some people’s mind, this change has brought with it a decline in family life. In many ‘traditional’ Irish homes, family life and food were closely linked. Traditionally one parent, normally the mother, would stay at home to rear the family and look after the domestic duties such as cooking the dinner and baking scones, cakes and bread for the family. Many children (now adults) would have learned their basic cookery and bakery skills from their mother. At this quality family time, homework, gardening, play, recreation and life skills would also have been encouraged, which some would argue created a well-rounded individual.

Changes occurred over the years. In many families, both parents went out to work and family time together was greatly reduced. Time for home baking was no longer allocated. Dining together as a family became almost extinct in many homes with the advent of TV dinners, computer games and differences in time schedules between all family members. In our house, when we were growing up we always made a point of dining together for the main meal of the day, and this is a practice that both my wife, Catherine, and I still engage in at home. After a busy day in work/school, we think it is good to sit down as a family and hear about each other’s day.

Changes also occurred in eating habits, in terms of the types of food that families began to eat. Junk and fast food became popular with our ever ‘expanding’ population. This junk and fast food seemed to have replaced a good breakfast, a healthy, nutritionally balanced lunchbox for school, and a traditional home-cooked evening meal. Today, childhood obesity is becoming increasingly prevalent.

Nowadays, because of the recent economic downturn, parents are spending more time at home, and families that regularly dined out are, for one reason or another, reacclimatising themselves to staying at home, and are returning to home cooking. This is apparent in the recent increase in cookery book publications, cookery schools and cookery programmes on TV. People are turning back to home cooking, and as the saying goes, ‘it’s an ill wind that does not blow some good’ because a new generation will learn all of those wonderful life skills through cooking.