The Way We Eat Dinner Now

Behold
The Photo Blog
July 23 2014 11:05 AM

The Way We Eat Dinner Now

DinnerinNY_001
Garro Heedae, a musician, has dinner late at night after intensive drum rehearsal sessions. Age: 28. Time: 1:20 a.m. Location: Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn.

Miho Aikawa

Growing up, both of Miho Aikawa’s parents had full-­time jobs, which made it difficult for the family to find time to spend together. As a result, it became a rule that they would gather for a family dinner whenever possible. “As a teenager, I was unconcerned about the importance of that family rule. However, now I understand that the dinnertime we had together as a family had irreplaceable value to all of us, and it meant a lot,” Aikawa said via email. “Having dinner is not just about eating food, and dinnertime portrays more aspects of our lives than lunch or breakfast would, since the term dinner refers to the main meal in a day. Even if the food provides the necessary nutrition, that alone is not enough. The question is: ‘What is a quality dinner?’ ”

More than four years ago, Aikawa decided to explore the many manifestations of modern dinners by photographing people eating in New York, focusing specifically on “private dinner moments, which take place regularly and more often.” She found subjects through friends and asked them to eat as they normally would in order to better reveal “part of the person's lifestyle.” What she found was that dinner today involves a lot of multitasking and, increasingly, a lot of media consumption. “The spread of the Internet, computers and cellphones in recent years has given people many methods of communication, and dinner has lost its original essence as an occasion to socialize with others,” she said.

DinnerinNY_002
Chelsea Olson, a model, concentrates on her food while reviewing her busy day. Age: 20. Time: 8:13 p.m. Location: Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.

Miho Aikawa

DinnerinNY_005
U Pa Mok Kha is a monk from Myanmar who cannot eat after noon. Local people bring him food and after he is done, he shares the rest of the food with them. Age: 55. Time: 11:17 a.m. Location: Jackson Heights, Queens.

Miho Aikawa

DinnerinNY_014
Emilie Rolin Jacquemyns, a graduate student from Belgium, eats a salad at home after evening classes. Age: 27. Time: 9:46 p.m. Location: Upper East Side, Manhattan.

Miho Aikawa

DinnerinNY_008
Jorge Valdés-Iga, a movie producer, eats at a New York deli. He always chooses the same seat, watching the clock. Age: 27. Time: 6:30 p.m. Location: Midtown, Manhattan.

Miho Aikawa

DinnerinNY_015
Avina Christie, has dinner with her mother, and, through a Skype video call, shares the time with her grandparents who live in Boston. Age: 9 months. Time: 6:57 p.m. Location: Upper West Side, Manhattan.

Miho Aikawa

Some of Aikawa’s subjects still used dinner as a time to socialize, but over the computer or phone rather than in person. “I don't think having dinner with a cellphone and a laptop is bad or wrong. One of my subjects was talking with her grandmother via Skype during the dinner and I think that can enhance the pleasure of the table,” she said.

Advertisement

Two years after Aikawa began her project in New York she started photographing dinners in Tokyo. “So far, dinner situations are similar in Tokyo and New York, possibly because both are metropolitan cities,” she said. “Japanese people tend to be shy in front of the camera, and many people are hesitant to expose their private moments such as dinner time. So it is a little bit more difficult to find subjects in Tokyo.”

Though Aikawa hopes her photos challenge viewers to think about their dinner habits, she doesn’t think they necessarily need to change them. Whether it’s enjoyed alone or in groups, at home or on the go, early in the evening or after midnight, dinner is still a fixture in our daily routines. “I wouldn't say that dinner is becoming less important to our lives. I think its role has changed. People need to eat something and not many people skip dinners,” she said.

Aikawa’s series, “Dinner in NY,” is on display in this year’s edition of The Fence at Brooklyn Bridge Park through October. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

DinnerinNY_010
Kimberly Cherubin and Gregory Santos, wife and husband, often stay late at their offices on weekdays but try to have dinner together as much as possible, usually accompanied by their cat. Age: Kimberly 31, Gregory 31. Time: 9:06 p.m. Location: Inwood, Manhattan.

Miho Aikawa

DinnerinNY_017
Oona Wagner eats her favorite Italian food, which was prepared by her father, while watching a TV show on her bed. Age: 13. Time: 8:21 p.m. Location: Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

Miho Aikawa

DinnerinNY_006
Zheng Yun lives with her daughter and son, but usually eats dinner alone while watching TV. Age: 52. Time: 8:54 p.m. Location: Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn.

Miho Aikawa

DinnerinNY_007
Bobby Blue and Joey Outten, who met on a blind date, enjoy cooking and eating dinner together. Time: 7:23 p.m. Location: Bedford, Brooklyn.

Miho Aikawa

DinnerinNY_004
Jessie Zinke, a designer, has leftovers for dinner on her bed while watching her favorite TV show. Age: 27. Time: 6:54 p.m. Location: Chelsea, Manhattan.

Miho Aikawa

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.