Dinnertimes: Stories of American Life, 1912 to 2012 by Deborah L. Halliday


Dinnertime is about more than just filling our stomachs; for most of us, it carries a deeper meaning that resides in our autobiography. Our dinnertime stories have roots in culture, in history, and in family. While some stories are full of positive memories, others are much less sunny. Whether experiences are remembered fondly or with pain, the intimate realities of our mealtimes stay with us and help to shape us. Dinnertime becomes a backdrop for the stories of our lives.

DINNERTIMES is a collection of first-person narratives told by people from a variety of social, cultural, and educational backgrounds. The oldest narrator is 108, the youngest 22. Each story is, in essence, an individual short memoir; but taken as a collection, an overall historical and cultural picture begins to emerge and DINNERTIMES becomes a book of social history.

Each reader of DINNERTIMES will find something to relate to, something to reflect on, and something to learn from.  DINNERTIMES will help to foster understanding among generations and across differences, and will help each reader gain perspective on his or her own experience in context. It would be an excellent choice for book clubs or memoir-writing groups. Dinnertime is important; this book helps us to see why.

“Spring Creek is exactly what it sounds like. It is a deep spring, ten to twelve feet deep in places. You’re actually catching these crawdads in spring water. It’s very clear, very cold; you can’t stand in it a long time or you’d just be frozen. … Once we’d caught enough for a meal, Mom would sit out by the water, take the crawdads and pull the heads off, then rinse them. She’d rinse all the innards out and then we would take everything else back to the house. If we had decided we were going to camp there she’d cook them over an open fire. First she’d boil them and then she’d fry them. I can’t eat lobster because it has no flavor to me; crawdads have such a great flavor, and she didn’t do anything special to them. She put nothing on them. They are just boiled and fried; in grease, of course. That is one of my greatest memories.”  (Bartley, age 54)