The Magic of Sharing Meals

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People say that food shouldn't be revered as much as it is – that it is unhealthy to link food to emotion and comfort and memories. To some extent, I see the point. When one eats to blind oneself against emotion or memories, or to comfort oneself instead of facing reality or handling conflict, a problem exists. I don't, however, buy the story that to link food to such things is all bad. See, food draws people together. It has since time began. A sizable portion of the stories told of Jesus Christ Himself center around the community found while sharing a meal. Whether He is feeding the five thousand or eating with tax collectors and sinners, whether He is breaking bread at the Last Supper or fixing that haunting-yet-visceral post-resurrection breakfast by the sea, we are meant to remember such things.

Humans bond over food. The preparation, the presentation, the flavors and colors and experience of sitting a while and sharing part of what keeps us alive. There are psychological and scientific reasons, I'm sure, but I'm content to recognize that eating as a group is a human thing steeped in long tradition. Community is a necessary ingredient to living a full life, and I can think of few places more easy to build community than across the table at dinner.

Last weekend I reminisced over the first ever “dinner party” I attended. It was high summer in northern Virginia and we had just wrapped an intense week of a political summer camp for highschool students. One of the staff members, a local, invited us to his parents home for dinner; said he'd cook. We didn't know exactly what to expect, but here is what he gave us:

A kingly feast on the back porch; evening, like heavy amethyst drapes, falling in folds around our shoulders . Pork loin, roasted to perfection, seasoned with little more than some salt and pepper and a sprig of rosemary. There were potatoes too, crackling in their individual little jackets, and the Irishman among us boasted of having eaten nine. There was a simple salad full of greens and sugar-roasted pecans, berries, and vinaigrette served with cold glasses of ice water from pitchers sparked with lemon and fresh mint. I remember having been intimated by this staff member before the meal. I remember leaving with a new impression. Yes, he is enormous and gruff and Viking-like, yes he sits at table like a Norse god, golden beard and all...but he shared food made with his own hands. Honest food. Food that spoke of him as a person – his habits, his interests, his world. We sat for so long after dinner that the fireflies came out and we lit candles and torches. One of our party paced back and forth on the phone with her family, discussing the Colorado wildfires licking dangerously close to their family home. It all seemed so far away, drunk as we were with the deep summer dusk. I think I'll always remember that night as summertime, bottled. A heady, rare vintage to compare other, lesser moments against.

There have been other dinner parties since...the unforgettable meal enjoyed in a Romanian gypsy-family's mansion...the “schnitzel party” we threw for a friend...multiple picnics in Williamsburg or at the beach...meal after meal after meal. And what I remember most is not the food of course. It is the people I was with and the things we talked about. It's the way we smiled across the table or caught hands before blessing the food. It's the way the cat scuttled into the paint shop and the sweet Romanian host, apologizing profusely, shooed him out. It's the way the guacamole never ended, or the way the marshmallow dropped into the fire and someone roasted you a new one. It's the friendships forged over smuggled bottles of sparkling cider and melting ice cream. It's the depth of understanding conjured by someone who not only makes rockin'-awesome sandwiches (WITH CHOPPED OLIVES) for a roadtrip, but also brings along miniature Oreo cheesecakes. I'm telling you, if you want friends, you need look no farther than a dinner invitation.

Get some friends together. Get some strangers together. Go out and buy food. Stay in and make food. Stock up the memories till they spill over and then make more. The matter at hand is to share your mealtime as often as possible with family, with friends. The multiplication of community is surprisingly delightful when you share that sacred mealtime. Crack your home open like a pomegranate; see the rich rewards inside. Friendship, like the perfect souffle, rises to monumental heights out of such gestures. I love to share food with other people. I love the lack of pretense surrounding a meal. Everyone has to eat. Why not eat together? Everyone needs community. Why not expand your circle?


Here's to dinner parties of the future. May they provide many, many memories for years to come!

5 comments

  1. Your descriptions are beautiful, you make food into poetry. I love it!

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  2. NOW I'M HUNGRY :) I wish I'd've been there! Your writing is lovely.

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  3. One of my friends shared this post on Facebook. What a beautiful way of expressing the power of sharing meals! <3

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