Bones Theory

The Family Table


In my family, the family table is really important. It is a big part of the day, and everyone is involved in the cooking and cleaning up. Most of our meals are homemade, due to allergies and nutritional requirements, so from a young age, my sister and I learned to cook. In addition to being taught the technicalities of cooking, we were also taught that cooking is a way of loving. We’re not the only ones that feel this way. On Bones, cooking and “family” meals are an important aspect of the show. From the increasingly regular after-case beer, to lunch in the diner, to holiday dinners in the lab or in Brennan’s apartment, the Bones “family” eats a whole lot, and most importantly, they’re eating with each other.

Over the seasons, important events have happened within Wong Foo’s, the Royal Diner, and the Founding Fathers. The squints celebrate Zack defending his dissertation and his new job, and the amazing “two plus two equals four” conversation happen in the Royal Diner, while some strong Jared Booth scenes happen, Pops tells Brennan what really happened with Booth’s father, Angela tells Brennan that she is pregnant, and Booth stews over Hannah’s rejection of his proposal in the Founding Fathers (and many other important scenes). Family appears often in both places – we meet Parker for the first time (outside of the Lab) in Wong Foo’s, and Pops and Hannah in the Royal Diner. In a way, it’s a way to “crash and rehash” as I like to call it, as a storytelling device, and it can move both plots along in an interesting way, without making them seem redundant.

We’ve seen multiple gatherings of the characters in each place, but none so important as the two Christmas dinners, one over Chinese food under quarantine in the Lab, and the other at Brennan’s apartment. Those were more traditional family dinners, there’s no other way to describe it. Do you think that the dinner in the Man in the Fallout Shelter was when the team started becoming more of a family? The previous morning, Goodman called them colleagues. They weren’t friends. Something started to change with that episode, and I’d like to postulate that it was with that meal (and the later creation and exchange of gifts) that the team started to become a family. In the Goop on the Girl, the team already was quite a family, and the new family of Cam and Michelle was included, along with Brennan’s father and second cousin Margaret. Hodgins and Angela even talked about it. Joining hands for a moment of prayer/silence was very much a “family” moment. Both episodes already emphasized family, so it seems appropriate that Goop on the Girl ended with a “family” meal.

One type of “family” meal that I nearly forgot is the carry-out meal. It starts with The Man in the Fallout Shelter (Chinese food), is carried over to Booth bringing Brennan Wong Foo’s in The Woman in Limbo, and then becomes a signature thing for B&B to share (I really, really, really love the “Thai food?” moment in the Girl with the Curl). I think that this shows the strength of their bond, and as the series progresses and as the team is included, the significance of the shared meal, in particular for B&B. Brennan brings Booth food in the Fire in the Ice, and he brings her pizza in the Proof in the Pudding. Both show that the partners feel concern about each other and care for each other like family.

This brings us to another important point: who makes the meals is also significant to the series. There are two characters on the show that indicate more than a superficial interest in cooking: Gordon Gordon Wyatt, and Brennan. For GGW, he is moving away from his original field and entering another, nourishing souls instead of dissecting them, to crudely paraphrase him (it’s odd, though, because this almost seems like a metaphor for the direction of the series, doesn’t it?). He cooks a meal for Booth and Brennan (and then tells them to go fetch Sweets) in Mayhem on a Cross, beginning their acceptance of Sweets’ “baby duck” role in their lives, and in a way, it is another “family” meal. Brennan’s interest appears with one of the victims, Carly, in the Glowing Bones in the Old Stone House, who was going to teach Brennan how to cook (and not really the technicalities, but more about the emotional aspect of cooking). The only time we see her cook is in Glowing Bones in the Old Stone House, Goop on the Girl, and Doctor in the Photo, all of which I count as “family” meals. In each of these moments, there is a deeper message that Brennan is trying to communicate. She may shrug off the mac and cheese, but it seems like she is communicating some sort of respect for her partner, and a wish for him to be happy. In Goop on the Girl, it started off being a meal so her father could feel loved (interesting, how preparing a meal indicates loving in this instance, when Brennan is still insisting that love (at this point) is not like that), and then it expands out into the whole FBI/squint “family”. Then Brennan cooks a meal for her friends (but not the whole FBI/squint family) in Doctor in the Photo, with Hannah and Angela both in mind. It is this scene that I often come back to, when thinking about Doctor in the Photo, because to me, it shows the discordance of the “family” unit. In a sense, the same message from before (cooking for family to show love) is still being communicated, but the reception seems to be a one-way street. It follows the idea of the whole season, as I mentioned in an earlier post, that season 6 was supposed to be discordant because the “family” wasn’t being a family.

So what does this mean, now?

Now that the team’s literal families are growing, and as the team strengthens, I believe that we will see both more meals and more frequent mentions or scenes in which Brennan cooking a meal is predominant. There will probably be more scenes at the Diner and Founding Fathers, or at least more significant scenes where the whole team is together. There could be more scenes within Booth and Brennan’s apartments, where they share a meal, like the ending of season 4. Maybe these “family” meal moments will move from the Diner and the Founding Fathers to their apartments and other places, like many of the meals were in the first two seasons and in the fourth. Maybe we’ll see some more Thai food, and soup from Mama. Maybe we’ll see Brennan (and hopefully Gordon Gordon Wyatt) cook a bit more. Maybe the table, whether it’s a lit [gurney?] or a coffee table or steps or a desk or an actual table, will become the family table once again.

How about you guys? Are you like Booth, with fond memories of a family table? Are you like Brennan and Gordon Gordon Wyatt, and use cooking as a way of showing love? Do you think we’ll see a noticeable change with food and cooking on the show? Can you think of any other instances? Do you have a favorite one?


Author: Owl

Observant owl-lover that remembers too much, especially about history. Also a museum nerd.

34 thoughts on “The Family Table

  1. Very interesting topic. When I was growing up, my parents always insisted that everyone be home for dinner for family time. We used that time to tell my parents what was happening with us whether it was school, friends, work, etc. It was our “family” time. I see this in Bones also. Whether they are at the Royal Diner, The Founding Fathers or their apartments, Booth and Brennan use this time to connect. They use the drinking, the stealing of fries, the leaving the bill for each other or someone else as a way to relax. They use this time to plan, to go over things that have happened to them or just to have quiet time and talk. They meet their friends, family and colleagues in places that most people would consider an equalizing place. No one has the advantage when they meet in a diner or bar. It is neutral territory and it allows those that meet there to be able to have conversations on an equal footing. I have always liked that about Bones. Everyone has their place of power, whether it is Brennan in her Lab or Booth in his office or interrogation room; but, meeting at the diner or at the bar equalizes their power. Neither has the advantage over the other. That is why we have such interesting conversations there.

  2. Quick comment and more later: can’t believe you didn’t mention GGW cooking for B&B at the end of Dwarf in the Dirt. He has just told Booth that he’s building a family with Brennan and that he should “grow a set” so he can protect her. And, of course, that a woman is the answer for a man and his gun.
    Then Booth asks Bones for a favor and Bones cracks a joke. Then GGW tells them to enjoy — in poetry.
    A wonderful scene of “family” followed by an even more wonderful scene with one of the best songs, My Ghost.

    • Whoops… I can’t believe I forgot that one! Thank you!

    • Besides more “family table” moments, I’d also like more GGW next season! 🙂 I do like Sweets but I like having my cake and my GGW too! 🙂

      • I saw Stephen Fry live in February. He got the Humanist Association Lifetime Achievement Award at Harvard. He was wonderful. His speech was hilarious and thought-provoking at the same time. I wanted to ask him if we’d be seeing more GGW, but I was in the balcony and couldn’t get down to the mic fast enough. I especially wanted to ask that because everyone else was asking all these complicated philosophical questions. ;-D

        SF is just brilliant. You should read or listen to his books or his Fry’s English Delights – a series of half hour BBC radio pieces (check iTunes). I can also recommend w/o reservation the various (5, I think) Jeeves & Wooster series that he did for the BBC with Hugh Laurie (yes, Dr. House) that ran on PBS.

      • Also, his reading of the Harry Potter books is the best. I mean, I like Jim Dale, but he’s no Stephen Fry. 🙂

      • Oh don’t worry Angelena, I know allll about Fry and Laurie. Don’t evennn get me started about the amazing HL in such classics as The Man in the Iron Mask, Sense and Sensibility and 101 Dalmatians (live movie version)…but that’s for another time and another blog! haha

        But, I am getting an English brother-in-law this fall, and I’ve already told him his job is to watch all kinds of British humor (I mean “humour”) with me and help me understand some of it that is over my American head 🙂 Can’t wait!

      • Can’t reply as I’d like to MJ as well, so replying to bb and MJ:

        MJ: I didn’t know that SF read Harry Potter. Which ones? Where did you find them?

        bb: HL was a riot in Dalmatians. I didn’t see Iron Mask, but I love Sense & Sensibility, although I remember Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman more clearly. (Did you mean Hugh Grant?) Cool to be getting an English brother-in-law. There’s a Seinfeld episode about Jerry doing standup in England and at first it goes over like the proverbial lead balloon because of the Americanisms, but at the end he’s doing a totally British routine that has the audience roaring.

      • @Angelena: Hugh Grant and Hugh Laurie are both in Sense and Sensibility. Laurie has a small role as Mr. Palmer…but he is HILARIOUS. He’s basically Dr. House with an English accent. Go rent it immediately and look for his small scenes, he steals the show!

      • I may own S&S, but I’ll check it out. The Mr. Palmer reference rings a distant bell. 😉

  3. This makes me miss family dinners. My children are both adults with families of their own, and I just don’t cook anymore. I live alone and frankly, it’s just too much trouble. And I’m so past the point of pandering to a male or female ego by cooking a meal for a date.

    But when my kids were growing up, family dinners were important. As they got older and involved in more activities, dinner was harder to coordinate and more scattered, but when they happened, something good always came out of it. I see the same thing with the Bones family dinners. Something good usually happens. Some moment. Some bit of communication. Some shared smile. Something.

    I think you’re on to something with the idea/hope that we’ll see more of those moments in S7. As a completely practical exercise, getting everyone around the table is a good reason to get everyone in the same shot at the same time. (Warning: Geezer alert!) I remember a TV show called “Eight is Enough” and in an interview one of the female characters jokingly complained the cast was getting fat from all the family dinners they filmed. But it worked to get everyone in one place for one big scene. That’s another reason I think you’re right about the possibility of seeing more of these moments. It works as a staging exercise.

  4. Great observations Owl! I don’t have much to add except, I agree with you!

    And I also would hope to see more “family table” interactions. Its such an intimate setting between either just two, or a group of family and friends.

    (Also, the mac & cheese scene is just wonderfully done. Brennan does more than just talk about her desire to cook, she actually does it. And for Booth alone. And the way he looks at her and says, “Thanks”….so great. More please!)

  5. We always had family dinners when my kids were young. During that time, we would discuss school, friends, and later boys. I remember when my kids were just becoming teens, our family dinner discussions became more of a time to complain. That was when we started, ‘three good things that happened today’. in which each child had to tell us 3 good things. It helped the discussion take on a lighter tone, and we became closer as a family. Even now my kids will joke about three good things, and everyone will laugh.

    I think food plays an important role in Bones. I have noticed that B&B use food as a excuse to avoid serious discussions, often with Sweets. In the same way, most meal discussions are lighthearted, and ‘safe’. Until BitB, they usually didn’t discuss serious issues over meals.

    I think the dynamic of the family dinners has changed since the beginning of the show. At first it was just B&B, then one by one they added in another family member. As each emotional and personal connection was made they were added into the family unit. Usually at the diner, but also at other places too.

    I think I saw MinFS in a different way, the discussion was more about the case, and seemed disjointed. They didn’t seem to have the same connection that they developed by the end of the first season.

    If you remember in BiaT, Booth brought Bones, and the rest followed, but it wasn’t really a family dinner. They weren’t accepted into the fold yet, and at the end of the episode, Booth ate alone. I think he would have eaten with Bones, if the rest of the squints weren’t there, but being Booth, he would never accept her and not them.

    I need to review more episodes, but I think the order that each member was accepted, may have some significance to the relationships that Brennan formed during that first season, and even into the next, but I’m not sure.

    Great post, I always loved family dinners as a kid, and my kids, now have family dinners with their kids. So the tradition continues.

  6. Very nice post; I’m very fond of the food scenes becasue as Lenora says it seems to put everyone on equal footing and also because it seems like the characters are able to relax more when they’re preoccupied with food/drink. With 3 kids and different schedules, it’s often very hard for my family to be at the table all at one time. Instead, our big family dinner usually involves eating out together once a week, or making a big deal out of holidays or B-days with good china and flowers. With the restaurant, I feel like I can actually relax and have a conversation without having to get out of my chair every two seconds.

    Sitting down together and sharing food makes people more receptive to each other, I think, and really reinforces the feeling of being part of a group. In B/B’s case it’s their way of showing how much they care about each other without having to use words, which essentially makes that time together “baggage free.” The mac and cheese moment is incredibly touching because, even though she downplays the effort she put into it, it’s clear on some level that she wanted Booth to feel loved; there’s no way we could miss that connection after he pretty much said earlier how much a family meal meant to him. And his reaction, particularly how amazed he was that someone would go to, in his mind, so much trouble for him? Priceless, and sort of sad all at the same time. Booth never seemed to have gotten much from anyone, praise or otherwise, and he’s almost pathetically grateful whenever he does. I was reminded of this recently when I watched The Crank in the Shaft and Booth was so pleased that Brennan would have called HR to get him the chair.

    • Or, take Foot in the Foreclosure. First, we meet Pops in the diner and Pops reveals (to Booth’s embarrassment) that Booth has told him how beautiful Bones is. Then, they have lunch at FF. But, the real family meal thing is Pops cooking for Booth and asking Brennan to join them for grilled cheese. “This is real food, Bones.” Then Pops nearly burns Booth’s apartment down trying to prepare dinner. Then they share the take out meal where Pops says he has to go, sparing Booth having to ask him to leave. And, how both of them are so afraid of the other thinking it means they don’t love them.

      How often in that ep do Booth and Pops talk about Pops making meals for Booth and Jared when they were kids? It’s a constant refrain. And, how many times does Booth mention the importance of caring for family?

      The more I think about it, that episode is just filled with B&B being a family with Pops. With their affection for each other and Pops. And, they both take him back to the rest home where Pops tries to get both of them past their doubts and fears about loving each other. “i like that thing around your neck.”

      I’ll also point out one last thing: the only place that rivals the meal is the car. B&B obviously, but there have also been some other conversations that have been meaningful. I’m thinking of Angela and Booth discussing Booth lesbian aunt. Pops in the car with B&B is also a wonderful moment. Or, Booth with just Pops. In both those scenes, he really gets on Booth about Bones.

      • Wow… you found another rich episode I really forgot a lot about when it comes to food. That’s really great. 😀

      • Owl – Can’t reply directly to you, so I’m replying to myself.

        I wonder what my detailed memory of these food scenes says about me and food — it’s a decidedly dysfunctional relationship. ;-D

        BTW, in Dwarf, remember that GGW feeds Booth when he shows up seeking help with his shooting — he feeds him to give him something to do until he has his break. It’s interesting that Booth spends all that time in the kitchen w/ GGW. Also, GGW has the scenes in the diner while eating w/ both Sweets and Angela. Is there also a bar scene w/ Sweets and GGW?
        Did you mention the scenes in the diner with Angela and Sweets and Angela and GGW (other than in Dwarf)? Angela seeks Sweets’ advice re: sex. Also, she seeks GGW’s advice re: moving in with Jack and afterward she calls him on saying that Brennan needs to not be purposeless because he needs to keep Booth and Brennan working well for the FBI.

        GGW has other food related scenes with Booth: Booth building the barbeque. Booth and GGW sharing tea and Booth’s negative reaction to same. Booth cooking the steaks after finally opening up to GGW, during his “therapy.” Also Booth and GGW in the diner reviewing his ties. Not sure if that’s at the end of that same ep or another.

        GGW is kind of a father figure for all of them and feeding them is one way he takes care of them.

        Question: have we ever seen them eating with Caroline? I can’t remember an instance. There are some scenes with her at the diner, but she isn’t eating.

        There’s also the scene at the diner at the end of Proof in the Pudding. They are all very sibling-like, I think, in the way they interact discussing what has just happened and what its point was.

        There’s a lot about food with Sully too. Meatball sandwiches: the perfect food — which Brennan rejects at one point, prior to telling Sully they’re just having a fling.

        On the silly side: what about all the silliness with food in the lab, the experiments. Shooting melons in Pudding. Tossing pigs into a wood chipper. Bouncing a frozen turkey. Using ambrosia for the gelatinous matrix — Player? There are other examples of melon abuse. Oh, and Max exploding bottles of soda and shining lasers through jello. That all probably means nothing, but playing with food is always fun.

        Or, Booth in the hospital protecting his pudding from Hodgins at first, but then letting him have it. And, it’s over pie in the diner that Booth and Hodgins make up after Hodgins screws up the case in the one where Jack’s old friend is killed.

        You could really write a thesis on food in Bones. Maybe I’ll write an academic piece. I see the main title as Bones & Food. I haven’t got what comes after the colon, but it will have the word “meaning” in it. 😉

      • Angelena-
        I don’t know if they were eating, but Caroline is at the FF with Booth and Brennan at the end of Mastodon when they finally settle the linchpin debate.

      • Trying to reply to Stephanie: thanks for the reference to Mastodon. I’d forgotten. I’ll have to check to see if Caroline is eating, or maybe having a coffee.

      • Angelena, Booth tried to steal a donut hole from Caroline in Judas On A Pole in the diner. She eventually offered him one.

  7. I would just like to point out, in the spirit of Brennan, that serving people food is a very literal act of caring for their well-being. Food is a necessity, and to ensure that people are getting enough sustenance is to ensure their survival. And of course, the cultural significance of the family meal allows for the passing on of traditions from parents to children. Everything from the selection of foods, to preparation, to cooking, to serving–all of that is culturally located and training children in those traditions is to ensure the survival of the culture.

    For those reasons and more, I love feeding people. I love hosting people at my house. I love showing people my care for them. And I really like that in spite of the ways Bones defies gender stereotypes (who says women can’t be good a math, experts in self-defense, shoot a gun, or solve a murder?), Brennan loves to cook. It makes her such a well-rounded, complex character.

    I have a personality that likes to be prepared, so I am usually the one packing snacks, bottles of water, and tissues, ready for anything that life might throw me once I step out of my house. (Since I don’t have kids, this usually winds up centering around our dog.) I think that is one of the fun things about seeing moms in action. When their child needs something, they pull out that diaper bag and have cookies or milk or a diaper–whatever their child needs. Seeing Brennan and Booth pull that kind of duty is going to be a whole different kind of displays of love. Feeding a family they made, both in the physical and emotional sense.

    • It would be interesting to see what Brennan considers important to carry around for her baby.

      • Lenora, It might actually be a bit scary, considering that baby Andy already ate her key.

      • Maria, I forgot about Andy and the key. Brennan has a high learning curve so I would hope she learned not to give small objects to a baby again. I will be interested in seeing what she thinks is appropriate toys and books.

      • The conversations about what gift to give Angela’s new baby are a good indication of what kinds of things Brennan will think is appropriate versus what Booth will think is appropriate. I foresee a lot of great entertaining tv in the future regarding these issues.

  8. There are a few scenes I like that don’t have anything to do with eating but are set at the Royal Diner, the bar or a cafe.

    How about the Dine and Dash scene in “The Beaver In The Otter”. Booth tells Brennan that sometimes you have to be bad to be good. He talks Brennan into leaving the bar without paying and she is absolutely excited that they would do that. She is having fun with Booth. Of course, Booth paid; but, it was so funny to see people who represent the law doing something that could have been unlawful.

    In Man In The Bear, Booth tried to get Brennan to buy him breakfast and put it on her expense account. He wasn’t too happy when she overslept and he had to pay for his cold breakfast.

    I also think it is funny that Booth thinks it is ok to stick his friends and co-workers with the bill at the diner when he is in a hurry or annoyed with them. We have seen him leave the bill for Brennan, Sweets and Hodgins.

  9. I loved the dancing in Bear. Although the end scene left Booth less than hungry… There’s also the Death in the Saddle speech and the Poco song, both as they shared a meal. And of course, there’s always coffee, whether they’re drinking it in or out of a building. Like in “the center must hold,” or when Booth gives her coffee as a ruse to be able to talk to her outside the courtroom where her dad is being tried, or I believe, at the end of the baby Andy episode when she spills some on him. I think the “you wouldn’t even have coffee with me?” conversation pretty much sums up the importance of taking time to share something together. Coffee, like food=caring. Unlike theater tickets…

  10. I’m replying by phone so I’m not sure if this will end up in the right place or not but re: SF and Harry Potter – Jim Dale does the ‘American’ version and Fry does the ‘English’ version. No idea why there are two readers for the same books – don’t we all know sweaters are jumpers and vice versa? Meh.

    Anyway, the Brit version can be ordered through B&N or bought on Amazon and Ebay. Just check whose reading to make sure you get the one you want.

    • Thanks MJ. I have already listened to the Dale versions. I read volumes 1-3, but switched to audiobooks after that. Got too long and the plots were too repetitive, so I didn’t want to spend precious reading hours on them. But, I did want to see how they turned out. Maybe I’ll re-listen to one of the books with the SF version.

  11. Ok, random comment..

    But I just finished Dwarf in the Dirt…and watching the dinner at the chef’s table with GGW, Booth, & Brennan…then the marksmanship test at the end…man that DB sure knows how to act! So well done there at the end, having Brennan watching him shoot….Bones at its best 🙂

  12. I’ve been reading this blog since Bones went on hiatus here in Oz. The last episode aired here was Daredevil, so I got a little desperate. Anyway I can’t remember which episode, but Caroline was eating donuts in the diner and slapped Booth’s hand when he went to take one. Eventually she offered his some.

    • I remember that, now. I’m not sure which ep, but I do remember her denying him the donuts and then letting him have one afterward. Thanks.

    • Judas On A Pole. Booth tried to steal a donut hole from Caroline. Just saw the episode this last weekend.

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