I’m a science writer and a historian of science. I’m often asked if my first degree is in science. It’s actually in art history and archaeology. But then I explain that I come from a family of lovable science pistachio nuts. From the age of 6 I was reading the New Scientist questions and joke section. As I grew older I also started to read the articles too. I was immersed in science so much that it came naturally to me and I was always fascinated by it. Science was the dinner table conversation at home. Much of that was limnology (fresh water biology) and environmental science because of my Dad, but my Mum would talk about various biology based topics, my older sister would generally freak people out describing the coolest new physiology experiment she did, and my family arguments (mostly between my sister and brother) were over science rather than who ate the last pizza slice. My brother, the now Chemistry lecturer always believed he won. I realised that most of the immersion in science I received happened by the dinner table. All 8 of us (I come from a really big family) sat and ate dinner together every night. None of us were allowed leave until dinner was finished and there was absolutely no television on. Smart phones didn’t exist when I was young but when I visit home now we still don’t use our phones at the table. The conversations we had led me to my passion in life.
Now in my own house I still sit every night with my partner, we discard phones, netflix, and the internet and just talk about our day and the ideas we’ve heard about. We both work a lot so dinner is our quality time together. The food doesn’t have to be fancy to be accompanied by some jazz, candles, and some good conversation. I like to read or listen to one thing every day which inspires me and makes my brain race off in a frenzy thinking of the possibilities of that idea and how it could change the world. Many of my daily inspirations are environmental from aquaponics to tesla batteries. And so every night usually with candlelight and jazz music we sit and talk about inspiring things until it is time to do the dishes and head to bed.
My advice is this: every day read one thing that you would want to talk about at dinner time. At dinner time switch on some nice music, put the phones away, turn off netflix or the tv and talk about big and small ideas to change the world. If you have children invite them to join in and encourage them to raise their own inspiring idea because some day they might realise that the dinner table conversation is why they do what they do. And maybe someday their dinner table will help them change the world.
Do you have a dinnertime tradition or suggestions to inspire great dinnertime conversation? Leave your comments below.