When asked to write on the subject of “that thing, activity, place, or event that ‘stitches you in the fabric of the world’”, I had several immediate thoughts. Music. Animals. The Old City of Jerusalem. Going through security at the airport! But then, I lighted on a subject that really resonates with me (and that isn’t silly), and which eclipses all of these.
Despite its necessity, and because of universality, the act of sharing a meal with fellow humans is the very thing that stitches me into the fabric of the world. It’s a form of communion for the Brotherhood of Mankind, requiring no creed; only clean hands, and an appetite. When I’m eating or you’re eating (or we’re eating together!), there are millions of others who are doing so too. Some may be chowing down on the exact same thing, even. What’s really transforming is companionship in that experience.
With the exception of a meal disturbed by a poisoned chalice (or, occasionally, a family Thanksgiving), an invitation to sit and sup is generally understood to be a friendly gesture. Much has been written about the Middle Eastern practice (for example) of putting on a spread for any guest – friend or foe!- that is a genuine act of hospitality.
When I think back through the years, many of my cherished memories revolve around food. I recall sitting in the humble home of new friends in Kenya, huddled over a low table bearing rice, chicken, chapatti (a flatbread), sukuma wiki (“stretch the week” – a mix of collard greens and tomato), ugali (a starch), and glass bottles of soda.
We may have had language barriers at times, but we could unite in the act of praising the food, the host, and speaking of our families.
Back when I worked in the financial services industry, I remember business meetings that were all-day slogs, often punctuated by disagreement on how to proceed with this project or that budget. But when dinner time rolled around, only happy faces devouring steak and potatoes!
It was during these meals that I could see the humanity of clients. Ties and tongues loosened, and they spoke of families, activities, vacations, books. Commonalities emerged that were buried beneath shop talk during the day.
More often these days, I commune by catching a meal with my friends, family, my co-workers. I organize a supper club that meets 3-4 times a year in local restaurants; friends from disparate parts of my life have come together and bonded around this practice. We’ve tried Ethiopian, Russian, interior Mexican, Thai, Greek, and so many other cuisines around town. The run-up to these meetings is always anticipation: of the food, and of the company. People who may not have ever met otherwise are compadres. Not just on the subject of food either, but of life!
When we see another as human, we see the face of God, I feel; the universe in a microcosm. If something as elemental as a shared meal can facilitate the divine, well, sit me down and pass the biscuits.
About the writer: When Shiloh was a child, her Mom often remarked that eating was a spiritual experience for her. It was, apparently! Now having happily eaten into middle age at tables near and far, Ms. Brown is a Intake Coordinator by day, and writer by night. She lives in Taylor, TX, with her pittie mix Rosie, who loves kale.