Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - October 19, 2018

Meals in Minutes

It is hardly a secret that much of our life centers around food. Yet the amount of time Americans actually spend at a meal is surprisingly small.

Husband Art is a morning person and I知 more of an evening person. I don稚 typically eat much in the morning, because once I知 awake, I知 antsy to get to work. This also means that as noon approaches, I知 hungry.

In contrast, Art says he is rarely hungry. He just enjoys eating and can fit it into his day almost anywhere. So whenever I feel the need for some food, I値l text him. He picks me up from my campus office and off we go to some fast-food place.

Since we are both in our 菟rime time then and I知 away from the distractions of work, it痴 a perfect time for us to discuss problems and resolve them. Some might think that would ruin a lunch together, but it works for us. Since neither of us is tired, emotions are unlikely to enter the discussion and we can come to a meeting of the minds on a rational basis. But most lunches are just chatty times when we share tales from work or about our family. It痴 also a good time to people watch.

Of course, since he痴 an engineer, analyzing things comes naturally to Art. He long ago noticed that our typical fast-food lunch lasts 20 minutes from the time we enter until the time we leave. He discovered that when he saw how often the people who arrived about the same time we did also left around the time we were ready to go. It makes sense because most of us get about an hour off for lunch and, when you subtract travel time, there isn稚 much time left to eat.

This isn稚 to say that some meals don稚 take longer. When Art and I went on our first date, it was supposed to be supper and then a movie. But we quickly made a connection. I had lost my husband Jerome and he had lost his father 18 months earlier. That coincidence provided a natural ice breaker and the conversation went on from there. Around four hours later, the owner came to our table in the then-deserted restaurant and informed us it was closing.

Still, that is an exception. Two weeks ago, I had an interview arranged for 7 p.m. Art drove me, and he allowed time so we could go by the farm home earlier to make sure we could find it easily. Then we went to grab a quick supper in the nearest town. Art figured it was 13 minutes to the restaurant from the home, so he planned we壇 eat in the 6:15 to 6:45 window, allowing a bit more than the 20 minutes 屠ust in case. As it turned out, the evening crowd was heavy and our food seemed to be taking a long time. But Art told me to relax as there was time. When our food did arrive, we ate at a normal pace and we got up to leave at 6:43 - two minutes before his calculated departure time.

I would expect that sit-down meals at home would take much longer, but the actual eating time seems to be pretty similar. The other night, we watched the evening news before plating our home-cooked supper at 6 p.m. We ate at a normal pace and were done before the 6:30 p.m. TV shows began.

Since the year daughter Katie was born, Art has made the Thanksgiving meal. He begins the actual cooking the day before. But from the time everyone sits down until the time they declare they are stuffed like the turkey is typically less than 30 minutes!

Art said his father痴 work when he was growing up normally brought his dad home at about 6 p.m. to eat. Thirty minutes later, the TV was on. The same thing happened in our family when we were growing up on the farm.

So the actual time from famished to full is pretty consistent - at least in our culture.

But the length of meal times is different in other countries. In France, many businesses close from noon until 2 p.m. for lunch - twice as long as the typical American lunch hour. The businesses then stay open until 6 p.m.

When Art and friends were in Libourne, France in 1985, they booked a table at a somewhat-famous local restaurant. It didn稚 open until 8 p.m. They discovered they didn稚 have to be concerned about staying too long for the restaurant's policy was only one party per table for the entire evening.

We experienced the same casual dining approach in 2016 while in France with friends. We arrived at the restaurant somewhere between 8 and 9 p.m. and didn稚 leave until close to midnight. I no longer remember how many courses we had, but there was ample time between each to chat.

When I lived in Latin America, I noticed an equally laid-back atmosphere during meals. Lunch times were typically two hours and evening dinners were even longer. When I first returned to Kansas after living away from home, I was upset that we didn稚 spend more time at the table, instead jumping up and rushing to clear the dishes as soon as the last person finished.

Starting times vary widely as well. Norwegians, on average, begin at 4 p.m. Spaniards think 10 p.m. is best, a time when some of my friends are already in bed!

I must admit that when we eat varies greatly. And with my Latin America days far in the past, I致e long ago adapted to 杜eals in minutes. But whenever possible, it痴 nice to take a bit longer to savor every bite and the companionship of family members or friends.

These smartphone photos were from our fall 2016 trip to France. Left: at several points during the meal, we were offered a choice of accompanying wine; top-right: a break between courses finds Alex "mugging" for the camera while his wife Rosette checks her phone; bottom-right: Roger speaks and gestures to Brent while others chat during another break in the serving.

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