Difference Between Eating and Dining Together

Eating is the simple act of feeding the body. It’s something we need in order to survive in life.

Dining, on the other hand, goes deeper than just putting food into our mouthes. I’ve always said it’s a spiritual connection that we have between God and the people sitting in our dining chairs. It’s more than food, presentation, and taste. It’s about people and what happens around our tables and it’s good for our souls.

When you think about the “setting,” it can add an element of “life” whether a fancy restaurant, a picnic, an outdoor dinner party, an elegant wedding celebration. It’s not always about the food, is it?

I love eating with old friends, even “older” friends, and getting to know new friends, reminiscing, sharing, serving (yes, when we have a dinner party in our home, my husband and I will “serve”).

It’s all about relationships.

What if the conversation is boring? How do you liven it up? Add personality or charisma to the evening? That’s a tough question, because depending on our attitude, if we’re being hospitable (realizing that it is not about us!) it takes the pressure off of expectations and disappointments. We have to think of questions to ask one another. It’s okay … that is how we get to know each other.

I recently overheard someone saying that ‘dining’ is much stuffier, more pretentious than just eating. Again, it depends on how you view the experience. No matter how fancy the restaurant or home, if it’s a place where we all come together to laugh, share and commune, so I don’t see dining as a stiff experience. Stiffness comes when we are rigid, unknowable, and we can’t connect with others.

Going in to a meal, I’ve really noticed that my attitude changes everything. It’s a barometer for how I treat my family ahead of time, my guests at the door, and then for the remainder of the evening. If my attitude is bad, the “feel” of the eating experience can become fake and shallow.

A riff
It’s about the diners. The guests. The bodies in the chairs … however you want to put it. We all know that being in the most creative place, stunning ambience, enticing food … but you’re with someone who has no respect for you, or you for them, it changes the experience.

Interesting food
Edith Shaeffer is a role model of mine. She wrote about food being an art in her book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking. She changed my view of how food should be presented nicely, how it should have flair and flavor, and how it can become a work of art. There’s nothing better than going to dinner in a home or restaurant that serves “interesting” or beautiful food.

What about thinking ahead to your dining experience and having a vision of how it will nourish your body, but also your soul. I know that sounds “heady,” but that thought recently came to me when we were preparing to go to friends’ house for a fabulous meal. I was excited thinking ahead to my friend’s cooking and how I was going to sit back, enjoy, relax, and savor every bite.

When you look around and see that everyone is having a good time, that is success. We’ll never know what each pallate experiences, and usually we don’t discuss every bite with those around the table. But when there is laughter, joy, and an overall sense of happiness – I just chalk it up to a good time for all.

I think of classy dining for sure with linens, even if ti’s just the cloth napkins. It’s also classy when everything has some kind of continuity, or matches … where there is a pattern, color scheme, or even though it’s simple, a good feel.

I really don’t care about gourmet and I try not to use that word very much. I think it’s pretentious, in a way. Gourmet paints us in a corner, it labels us, it’s a little snooty. When it comes to hospitality and entertaining, again, the food is important but the experience goes way further than the fine details of how food is cooked and served. I love gourmet, yes, but I’d never want to make anyone feel bad who doesn’t cook so elaborately.

So again, there are places that bring more to the table than a meal (eating = putting food in the mouth). Dining together means that we enjoy the flavors, no matter the setting, but we really enjoy the company.

Good company makes food taste a whole lot better.

Wouldn’t you agree?

How do you define the difference between eating and dining?

15 comments on “Difference Between Eating and Dining Together”

  1. Pingback: Joy-Filled Days - Raising Kids. Keeping House. Choosing Joy, Everyday!

  2. Oh, Sandy! I love Edith Schaeffer! I gave her book “Hidden Art” to my grown daughters, and have given “What is a Family?” as a wedding gift many times. Definitely worth reading! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I wish we as American’s would learn something from other cultures. I am married to a man of Russian decent, and the culture of food is so different than ours. They do have hurried meals of course, but when they have guests, it is very different! Tables are set up, wherever…no matter how small the house is, it is not for its decorative appearance, but then the food is set around the table. You sit and eat, and talk, then tea is served with desserts. As you sit there, cut up fruit may appear, and other candies….more tea is served. Last night, dry fish and a sort of “bacon” that they eat raw with mustard and garlic came out during tea time! We sat there for over 3 hours, visiting and eating slowly. You don’t eat as much as you think that way. You eat slow, you learn that they will be offering you more and you take your time.
    But I am always amazed at it! It is one of the best experiences!!!

  4. Ah yes eating together, gathering to eat. More often than not lately we eat, but we are not dining. Last night we dined. We all sat together as a family at the table we prayed, we shared, we passed the food, we laughed. It was a beautiful thing.

  5. I love this! And it is so true. We have always come to the table together for dinnertime. It is all about relationships and good conversation. I always said, “you can eat standing up, but you must sit to dine.”

  6. Hi Sandy,

    Just love this post – so insightful. I too love The Hidden Art of Homemaking. Such a wonderful book. And yes, good company when dining makes all the difference in the world.

    Before my husband and I were married he looked at food as simply fuel – – – nothing more. Inhale and go. To me that defines “eating”.

    Once we were married, we would sit down and eat dinner together – often over very simple faire…some times just homemade chicken soup and toasted bread spread with butter. But as we would eat we would chat, getting to know each other better. My husband would often pull his chair closer to mine and we would linger at the table, sometimes holding hands, enjoying a bit of hot tea and a little bite of dessert. It was wonderful. To me, that is dining. :-)

    Have a great day.


  7. I totally agree. I think of dining as something that is done to perhaps impress others, eating together is all about relationships.

  8. Loved this post. Yes, it is about the people. And love Edith Schaeffer’s work. Such a thoughtful approach to life.

  9. Excellent definition! It really is all about relationships. :)

  10. Sandy, I love this! You are speaking my language! Going to give a little talk at a bridal shower coming up about this very thing–I think bridal showers are a perfect opportunity to impart these ideas and encourage the next generation to invest in dinnertime and those gathered around their table. Passing this along today :)

  11. In our house, we’re really relaxed. it’s all about literally feeling comfortable in your surroundings. If we feel comfortable, meals go really well :) :) We have a good time at mealtime and there’s no pressure to be or do anything in our home. It’s really nice :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  12. Eating is what we do when we have to rush out to a class on a Wednesday night. Dining is taking the time to set the table and relax over a meal for just a few more minutes. Dining can be as simple as a BBQ on a Saturday night if it’s created with care.

  13. Sandy, I’m going to use this for my Foods class at school! I’m always trying to get them to view food with a “bigger picture”! Thanks so much!!!

  14. You really made me think about this…for the past few months we have definitely been eating (stuffing our faces in front of the tv) rather than dining. Last night, we went to a restaurant with friends and suddenly the meal was about conversation and laughter, not stuffing our faces. Much better!

  15. You said it so well. Eating is a necessity. Dining is more about communion with those we love.

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