“This is what I want you to do: I want you to tell someone you love them, and dinner’s at six,” writes bestselling author Shauna Niequist in her new book Bread & Wine: A Lover Letter to Life Around the Table.
I love this idea. On Monday I talked about the importance of gathering our loved ones (or acquaintances, classmates, co-workers) for delicious food and meaningful conversation. (Without body bashing, criticism or gossip.)
Gathering around the table is a form of self-care. It not only nourishes our and others’ basic need: hunger. But it also nourishes our needs for conversation, curiosity, creativity, community, honesty, love.
As Shauna writes: “The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a world that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel.”
To sit down and savor is a rare thing in our go-go-go society. Paying attention, looking into each other’s eyes (without glancing at our smart phones) and just listening are powerful gifts we can give.
To savor food is also rare. It’s more common to dismiss food, see it as an inconvenience, at best, the enemy, at worst.
But it’s amazing what happens when we use our hands to create a simple meal: We use our senses. More accurately, we delight them.
We breathe in the aroma of fresh cilantro. We feel the weight of a piece of meat. We feel the rough edges of a potato. We hear the sizzle of garlic in the pan.
We take a generous bite of our salad to see if it has enough salt and pepper and olive oil. We see the vibrant rainbow of colors produced by the simplest of foods: tomatoes, peppers, avocado, eggplant, berries, beets.
We forget the day’s burdens, or let them wait on the sidelines for a bit. We might even get creative, combining flavors and foods we’ve never combined.
We realize the hard work and even the magic that’s gone into bringing this food into our home.
I love this quote from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh in the book Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh:
“When I hold a piece of bread, I look at it, and sometimes I smile at it. The piece of bread is an ambassador of the cosmos offering nourishment and support. Looking deeply into the piece of bread, I see the sunshine, the clouds, the great earth. Without sunshine, no wheat can grow. Without the clouds, there is no rain for the wheat to grow. Without the great earth, nothing can grow. That is why the piece of bread that I hold in my hand is a wonder of life. It is there for all of us. We have to be there for it.”
When you meet at the table, remember that your meal doesn’t have to be fancy, unless you’d like it to be. (I’m such an amateur cook that I’ve burned toast and fried eggs. I’ve also had plenty of other slip-ups in the kitchen. But that never stops us from enjoying ourselves.)
It can be breakfast foods for dinner (eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes). It can be an evening of your favorite appetizers or desserts. It can be Mexican or Italian or Greek. It can be burgers or pasta Bolognese.
Here are some simple meals I’ve made (again, totally not a cook), and loved:
- Rice + bean casserole
- Shrimp + rice casserole
- Roasted broccoli
- Oven-roasted asparagus
- Linguine with roasted broccoli, pine nuts and goat cheese
- Potatoes au gratin
- Fish tacos (Instead of fried fish, I used grilled shrimp.)
You also don’t need to gather 20 people. Make it a party of three, four, five. I’ve cooked for Brian and my mom, and we’ve had a blast.
According to Shauna, “The table is where time stops. It’s where we look people in the eye, where you tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite.”
By the way, here’s a stunning video. I’ve included it on Weightless before. But I just couldn’t resist.
What are your favorite meals to make? What are your favorite food blogs or recipes?