Commensality is a remarkable human act, and tends to be more present among families. Nevertheless, it is possible that eating at the table is being taking for granted when one refers to family meals. Thus, this paper aims to analyze working mothers' discourses about family meals eaten at the table, on the couch and in the bed/bedroom.
The participants were thirty mothers working in public universities of the Brazilian region called Baixada Santista. A qualitative study was conducted, using semi-structured interviews. In the transcripts the words “table”, “couch”, “bed”, “bedroom” were located and the excerpts containing them were extracted and analyzed according to a classical and exploratory content analysis.
The table is a significant component of meals that unite the family. While for some the meal at the table is an enjoyable moment, it is a stiff moment for others. Indeed, manners and the notion of hierarchy appeared only for the table. Regarding the couch, it seems that the family chose to eat there, because it is a more casual and relaxed setting. Eating in the bed was related to precarity, intimacy and casualness. In the three settings, watching television was a common practice, replacing or being added to talking.
Commensality is such an important practice that appears in different settings and even in precarity contexts. The table emerged as the maximal cornerstone of commensality. However, when it was not present, new arrangements were made. Especially the couch seems to be a new commensal space, less formal and rigid, but able to allow some collective conviviality. Eating in the bed was a less common practice. Finally, the significant role that television assumed in meals is highlighted.