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The family dinner is back – not haute, but the right thing to do

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Studies show that roughly half of families eat together most nights. And while that number holds fairly steady, as a movement, family dinner seems to be reaching critical mass. Opinion leaders – like Tiger Mother Amy Chua, TV personality Cynthia McFadden, medical ethicist Ezekiel Emanuel – now dish about their personal experiences in The New York Times. The Huffington Post suggests table talk topics. "An Inconvenient Truth" documentary producer Laurie David takes the style elements up a notch in her book "The Family Dinner." Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg breaks from motherhood's don't-ask-don't-tell policy to fess up: She's always left work at 5:30 to eat with her children. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow spills in Harper's Bazaar that she's doing dinner for her husband and kids. The food-conscious Obamas share their own family dinner habits.

The "new" family dinner has a designated day – Sept. 24 this year – along with corporate funding and recipes. Some communities have weekly activity-free nights to clear time for family dinner. Pediatricians are recommending the practice, as are authors, bloggers, and celebrity chefs. And now that dinner has gone, well, Hollywood, a meat-and-potatoes aesthetic has yielded to artfully folded table linens in Brooklyn, vintage monastery tables in Levittown, and, everywhere, the possibility of kelp.

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