Reading about the latest trend in America's uncivilized eating behavior nearly put me off my breakfast the other day.
If you, as most Americans seem to do, skipped breakfast that day, you may have missed that New York Times article about snacks - especially, snacks on the run - replacing the main course in American eating.
All of us have been guilty of heading out the door in a hurry, toast in mouth, apple at the ready. But it's the portrayal of America's mindless feeding on processed snack foods that alarms. It's the sort of food and lifestyle that don't require a knife and a fork and a chair and table to eat.
Some people may counter that you've won if you can eat a slice of pizza and drink a can of soda while skateboarding (which was actually captured in a Times photo with the article). It's eating and leisure combined in one neat trick.
But eating is a leisure activity in itself in most parts of the planet. And in many countries it's a social event as well.
Spend any time in Russia and you'll realize that the ritual of squeezing around the kitchen table sharing food is one of the most enduring features of Russian hospitality. You may be overfed, and asked to eat more than your share of fried potatoes and sour-cream-based sauces than you thought humanly possible, but you can't deny the philosophy behind the act.
To eat together is to share, and to share something as precious as food is a serious act of generosity indeed.
Or, close your eyes and picture a typical Italian scene. What do you see? A huge table under the trees with groaning platters of pasta and vegetables, fresh fruit, and a boisterous family talking, laughing, and eating at once. The food itself is simple enough, homemade probably, and everyone's sharing the event.