Happy New year!
I wrote this post only to just remind myself and make you more aware that meal times are not only vital to our wellbeing and community but are sacred. So enjoy them and make the most of them. Increase them and prolong them. That is one of my near year’s resolutions this year. Cook, eat and love.
To me eating and love is interconnected when seated together with one or a group of people over a meal. I can see the energy that binds us grow stronger with each mouthful. I see boundaries breaking, mutual understanding developing, new links being created and pathways opening. I see this in my daily life, as I observe my own family and friends, from that shy stranger joining our French café conversation class to my 5 year old son telling me how his day went at school. Sharing a meal has this universal binding power. That is why I believe it is so important to increase meal sharing.
Oscar Wilde said that “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations”, a strange comic thing to say but it holds some truth. I think it is because you just have been nourished not only biologically but also emotionally with another person(s). Therefore, you shared a happy experience with someone. The meal was good but more importantly, it provided a space for a social and a therapeutic outlet. Everything else was put aside and you connected with someone over a meal. You have allowed yourself that human divine interaction in this hectic, crazy, fast, demanding world.
“I sometimes think that the act of bringing food is one of the basic roots of all relationships.” Dalai Lama. Think about the core relationships in your life, how was it cemented? Your family meals when you where young. You shared your thoughts over the table and was taught values of caring for each by passing plates, giving bigger portions, waiting for everyone to gather, washing your hands first or even saying a prayer of thanks before a meal. What about your first date? Your closing businesses deal? You put some thought into it to make it successful and relaxing.
Commensality (a new word I discovered that means to share a meal with someone on the same table) is said to be one of the most important action of sociality in all cultures by the Canadian anthropologist Gillian Crowther. As this act establishes the sense of belonging and binds communities.
Alice Julier says in her book ‘Eating Together’ that sharing a meal actually shifts people’s perspective, by having a conversation and exchanging views, people’s perceptions of race, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds become more equal than in other scenarios. An example would be; with today’s bombardment of Islamophobia, I (a hijabi) would be perceived much more differently if you just passed me by in the metro than if you have a quick bite with me. You would have talked to me and found out that we share the same values and have similarities or noticed my bad jokes, but at least I tell jokes! I would have given you some cooking tips too !
The 17th century writer François de La Rochefoucauld said “To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art,” I pondered what that could mean. Did he mean the way you hold your fork? The art of not slurping your soup perhaps? Or is it being conscious of eating seasonal organic, locally sources ingredients? Maybe it is all of that, but what if he also meant to eat with others and exchange ideas, feelings and have a conversation.When we gather over physical sustenance we are also gathering to sustain a multitude of our own existence such as the emotional, psychological and social.
Wishing you more happy meal sharing this year and I encourage you to cook for each other without being stressful. Be confident, laugh, sing and dance when cooking, transmit your positive energy into your cooking, it will add the best flavor to your cooked meal. Trust me that’s how I do it and it works, despite “can you add more salt next time” comment from my husband !
Happy cooking. Happy eating