I want to take a moment to talk with you about food.
I know this may seem strange – I share moments with you all the time to talk about food; whether it’s the perfect Autumn salad, luxurious apple butter challah, or a refreshing and decadent dish of roasted grapes, all we talk about here is food. Today I want to change it up a bit and talk about the idea of food instead of sharing a recipe or restaurant with you. Let’s explore the ways in which food brings us together.
Think about your daily meals – are they typically spent alone? Maybe you eat breakfast on the go, steal a quick lunch at your desk, or eat dinner in front of the TV. This totally used to be my life. Food in the form of togetherness was generally reserved for special occasions, dinner and happy hour, or rare golden brunches on a sunny weekend morning. Most of my experiences with food were disconnected from people, and too often, myself.
Food is the one commonality among all people on Earth. Every single culture gathers around food, whether it’s for a holiday, a ceremony, or an everyday meal. The universal factor among all civilizations and cultures is food. As such a fundamental part of our lives and our history, I think it’s odd that we have allowed ourselves to lose respect for food, and especially for its power to unite people.
I lived in an all girls dorm during my sophomore year of college. My roommate, the two girls across the hall and I would switch off cooking for each other every Thursday night. It was a nice break from the dining hall, but it was also much more than that. We each came from completely different backgrounds with diverse family heritages and recipes, and unique stories to tell. By coming together for a few hours once a week and sharing a meal, we each got to have our time to share our stories with the others, and it was a great bonding experience.
Fast forward five years and you’ll see that food has recently become a central part of my social experiences. Living abroad can be a powerful catalyst for pushing you towards those around you, and my friends and I often have dinner with one another as a way to come together after a long day, or simply as a way to pass the time. We will share a potluck meal, a much-needed cookie, or a relaxing a glass of wine and quiet conversation. We seek out one another, beaming, “try this!” or, “you look like you need chocolate/wine/smiles, come into my kitchen.” We share meals along with stories and recipes, and I’ve been praised for my cooking like never before. I recently made a dish that my sweet boyfriend declared as the perfect food and the best thing I have ever made.
My friend and roommate, Noam, is very knowledgeable about another means of bringing people together – wine! She shared her opinions of food and togetherness with me, explaining that everyone has to eat and that people enjoy bonding over shared experiences. She also pointed out that the only time when many families come together is around the dinner table; it’s the one opportunity each day when otherwise busy families can talk and connect with one another.
All of this has me thinking about what food means to us – as a society, as friends and family, and as a community. I’m sure you also have memories of how food has brought you together with people. Many of these may center around holiday meals, but I think we focus too much on the holidays. We wait for holidays, birthdays, and special events as a reason to come together, but what about the day-to-day?
Think of the times when food and nourishment have recently brought you together with those you love. Maybe you enjoyed a meal at home with family, an anniversary dinner, or a relaxed BBQ with friends. Life is best shared with company, and we don’t have to wait for holidays to enjoy dining and sharing time with one another.
Here are 3 practical ways that you can use your meals to bring you closer to those around you on a regular basis:
This is my favorite option, because I love any excuse for a get together. These don’t have to be fancy or elaborate; there’s something so simple and sweet about relaxing on a blanket with flimsy plastic cups of wine and fresh basil in the air. You can plan a potluck meal once a week or even once a month. How it works is up to you: you can rotate locations, and attendees can take turns bringing different dishes, drinks and dessert. Even if you order takeout, at least you get to chat and laugh and spend time together.
Experience creating a meal alongside someone you care about. This doesn’t have to be someone you live with, either, and it can even be last minute. Your meal can be something as easy as linguini and meatballs, or something more lavish – it’s up to you! The experience of working together to make something from scratch and then enjoying that meal is a wonderful way to share time together.
If you don’t have time to cook, or if you feel like letting someone else do the work for you, plan to have a relaxing brunch with good company. Sip some mimosas and savor your time together.
Did I mention happy hour? Food festivals? Wine bars? Coffee or lunch dates? Baking cookies? Road tripping to wineries? There are a million ways you can bring your favorite people together to enjoy some amazing food. Go do it. Plan to share at least one meal each day with someone in your life, whether it’s toast and orange juice when you first wake up, a home-cooked dinner after a long day, or a joyous happy hour with friends; just sit down with someone and chat while you eat. Bonus points if it’s adventurous.
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