After reading yesterday’s post (“The secret ingredient? People!“), my wife raised concern that I might be perceived as promoting restaurant- and café-eating as a way of life superior to eating at home with your family. Nothing could be farther from my intent.
Time with your partner, children, parents, or other family is invaluable, and the positive effect of eating meals as a family is also invaluable. Not only that, but I think that meals at home are likely to be healthier: Americans tend to eat until their plates are empty, and regularly finishing off typical restaurant portions can only tend to make people obese.
I think that very few people are suited for a life of non-stop variety. We all return to “safe” environments with surroundings we know and people we are comfortable with, to places where we can temporarily escape the new experiences of the outside world and make sense of them.
But, without those new experiences, the peaceful, reflective time we enjoy with friends and family can become sterile.
In order to produce offspring, two organisms must be genetically similar: dogs may breed only with dogs, humans with humans, et cetera. But populations also require diversity — the introduction of new genes in new combinations — to stay viable.
Similarly, people require safe havens where they can create meaning together and collaborate on projects both new and familiar. They also require the stimulus of the outside world, where they are exposed to, and must interact with, the unfamiliar and unexpected. The long-term consequences of isolation from the unfamiliar world are ignorance, intolerance, and extremism — not the stuff of a viable civilization.
That is why your home-made hot cocoa — though it may some days be a better experience, and other days worse — will never take the place of sitting in a café, picnicking in a park, or strolling in some other vibrant public place.