Silence And Food Aren't A Good Combo

Today I went out to lunch with 11 people and 2 babies and something not unusual happened: when our food was brought to us, the table went silent. Where there had been much talking and laughing and sharing of stories there now hung a noticeable silence. I find this both bothersome and fascinating. The lack of conversation once our food arrived is bothersome to me because it makes the preceding conversation seem like small talk, only there to get us to the food. It also bothers me because I believe the food should enhance the conversation. If we're with people we enjoy, if we're eating delicious food, then the atmosphere and enjoyment should only elevate when the food arrives.

I'm fascinated by this occurrence because I know that it is repeated all over on a daily basis by people from all walks of life. So while I'd like to imagine that it is a particularly American issue, I'm pretty sure people in other cultures will struggle with this as well, to varying degrees.

So after thinking about this for a while I came up with some questions:

Who decided we had to chow down our food? When did it become a speed contest?

If it's a pleasurable experience, why are we so keen on ending it as fast as possible?

Don't we want to spend more time with the people we care about?

Who decided talking with food in your mouth was bad 'etiquette'?

What does it say about us as people if we can't stop and enjoy the pleasure of a good meal, a good drink, and a good conversation at the same time?

Where do we really need to be in such a hurry?

My unsettledness about this issue is further provoked when I watch shows like 'No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain', which is one of my favorite shows of all time. In countless episodes of this show Bourdain is in countries around the world, showing us the intricacies of their culture and cuisine, but one thing is constant in all of these places: the people are talking and laughing and yelling and singing and sharing stories WHILE they eat. Dinner isn't a 20 minute blitz, it's a 2 hour party.

I'm envious of this.

Sure we need food to survive but shouldn't eating be more than just survival, shouldn't we have fun with it?