April 1999
s m u g
by Alexis Massie

Death of a Meal

No one eats dinner anymore. If you're lucky, you'll find a few people who will eat lunch, but they want it delivered to the office so they can eat it at their desk. Everyone's in a rush, or tired, or crabby. More often than not, late night meals are comprised of macaroni and cheese, rice, or a peanut butter sandwich, slopped on a plate and eaten on a couch or in bed while Vanna White wiggles and turns letters in the background.

I'm not lamenting the death of good old-fashioned American family values, or suggesting that this is somehow a woman's fault, but I do have to admit that I miss dinner. I miss having a dinner table. I miss the days when even apartments had dining rooms. On those rare occassions when I do feel like cooking a meal, my housemate and I inevitably wind up fashioning a pseudo-dining room in the living room, constructed of a table bought at IKEA, the couch, and an ottoman. Contrast that with the meals I grew up with - linen tablecloths, matching plates, chairs that reached the table, serving platters - it's just not the same.

Let's face it, dinner takes work. You have to make the meal. Three dishes means three dirty pots and pans but my mother always told me that a proper dinner should have at least three colors or else we'd all die of malnutrition. Then the serving dishes, one for each dish. Then the setting itself, comprised of plate, utensils and stemware, all of which get dirty, all of which will have to be cleaned. No one ever wants to clean. Then there's the linens. Napkins, tablecloths, doilies, all have to be washed. Really, what we're talking about is three to four hours of preparation and reparation for a 20-minute food fest that no one will properly appreciate.

It's no wonder that no one eats dinner anymore. But I have discovered the solution to my problems, to all of my domestic problems.

Cardboard furniture. Through the glory of modern furniture engineering, I can go to my closet, select a dining room table and simply unfold it in the living room. I can choose a chair or, if I want to be really stylish, I could opt for a stool made out of an inverted box, ergonomically pre-dented. Like the futon, but more so, cardboard furniture makes populating (and unpopulating) your home or apartment a breeze. And, if you ever get tired of your furniture, have it recycled! Its parts will simply wind up in your replacement furniture piece anyway.

The potential for this product is endless. You could dissemble and pack your entire house in the trunk of a VW Bug in less than six hours. No more expensive moving vans. No more unseemly dents in the walls after navigating an especially tricky corner. Why place books and knick-knacks in boxes? Just wrap the fragile items in newspaper and leave them in the furniture!

I want dinner and I want it on a sturdy cardboard table with cardboard chairs. My cardboard dinner table will be painted blue, because I always liked that color, but the chairs will be red, green, yellow and white so as to appear eclectic, yet chic. I want cardboard platters to serve and cardboard "bone china"-colored plates and cardboard "silver dreamscape" utensils. At the end of the meal, I want to toss my cardboard dirties (including my cardboard cooking apron) into a recycling bin that services the cardboard industry. I want to fold up my cardboard table and store it in my junk drawer. And then I want to be done.

Done, so I can put on my insta-disposable cardbo-silk nighty and watch my television, resting on my cardboard entertainment center, from my cardboard futon. I'll switch from channel to channel using my cardboard remote control. When it stops working, I'll recycle it and grab another.

My collection of outdated New York Times alone could furnish an entire block for months. The crap I find sent with my bills each month should give me at least two eight-piece settings. Got an old phone book? Get a new phone and lacquer it the color that you never dreamed a phone could be! It's the next big thing, I tell you, and I for one plan to put in my order now.

Cardboard furniture, the upcoming emblem of the new generation : Earth-friendly, adaptable, easily stained and just as easily replaced. Get some today!


in the junk drawer

and such
and such

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