The Power of Sharing a Meal
Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to share a meal with someone. I serve on the Board of Trustees for my sons’ school and we have recently been involved in a search for our next head of school (our beloved current head is retiring). This has meant a lot of dinners away from my family. It has also meant a lot of meals shared with others.
As I have been sitting down to these meals away from home, both with people I know quite well and with others I barely know at all, it has been wonderful to see how the food on the table brings us together—it lightens the mood, it shifts the dynamic, and it strengthens the bonds that we are building. The food also becomes a topic of conversation and leads to discovering shared experiences and interests. It is essential to the community building that we are doing.
At one of these dinners, a friend humorously recounted his childhood when he was the slowest eater in his family and everyone would have to sit and wait for him to be finished before they could move on to dessert. At another, a number of us discussed a shared love of Brussels sprouts. Both of these moments were full of joy and deepened friendships.
Missing Family Dinners
Ironically, at the same time, having all of these dinners away from my family has posed its own challenges. My 8-year-old has commented numerous times that I have been away for dinner too much (and has also celebrated when the four of us get to sit down together). It has required even more careful coordination between me and my husband over the weekly meal plan. But perhaps most unexpectedly, it has left me feeling sort of disjointed at the end of the day, when I return to the remnants of a missed family meal with a full belly of my own. Missing those family dinners has made me realize what an anchor to my day they truly are. They aren’t only good for my kids, they are good for me, too.
These experiences have really reminded me of why I am so passionate about food and helping people to discover how accessible, simple, and meaningful cooking can be. The connections that are built when sharing a meal, whether it is with your family or with others, are powerful. Food is not only meant to sustain and nourish us, but it is also meant to fulfill us. It is intended to be pleasurable and enjoyable and to offer social connection. Sharing meals is a fundamental component to our physical and emotional well-being. So as we sit down for dinner, whether with family, friends, or colleagues, I hope that we are all able to savor not only the flavors on our palates, but also the connections that we are building.