This week I had the amazing opportunity to go to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture with my 8-year-old’s 3rd and 4th grade class. It was a powerful experience in many ways and brought many emotions to the surface for all of us—sadness, pain, anger, joy, and hope. After touring the museum the whole group met in the cafeteria for lunch and as we sat there discussing what we had seen and the many emotions and thoughts it had brought up for us I looked up and saw this quote:
I’m concerned that Americans are losing that place of meeting. There are very few times we can be more intimate as to share food together.”
As I sat there, sharing a meal with these children and the other chaperones, I was struck by the fact that in that little moment we were living out the power of Maya Angelou’s words: we were sharing in the intimacy and the power of the experience we had just had, while we ate together.
Then last night I had dinner and drinks with two friends, one of whom is an acupuncturist and the other a massage therapist. I know, I know, it sounds like the opening to a joke: “an acupuncturist, a massage therapist, and a health and cooking coach walk into a bar…” But one of the things we were talking about is how much anxiety we are seeing in our clients these days. How alone and scared many people are feeling. As we each talked about what this looks like in our practices, one of the things I thought about was how powerful food is when it comes to anxiety.
Yes, there are certain foods that can help you to feel calm (and others that will contribute to your stress) and, yes, there is the issue of “eating your feelings,” but even more than that what struck me was the importance of food as a vehicle to bring us together in good times and in bad. There is a reason that there is always food at big celebrations such as weddings and birthday parties and also at times of sadness, such as funerals or wakes, it is because we are building community. We are connecting with one another. We are sharing in the joy and the sorrow as we share in the food. But what seems to be increasingly lost is this same connection in day-to-day life. We need to be making these connections on a daily basis with people we love, with our families and friends, so that we don’t feel so isolated and alone. That is why cooking is so important. Not fancy cooking, not perfect cooking, but simple cooking that gets food on the table for you to share with one another while you talk about your days, your ups and downs, your fears and anxieties, your joys and successes. Now I know we all have busy lives and adding cooking and a sit down meal to the mix might feel like a lot, but maybe we need to start thinking about it in terms of an act of self-care as it will strengthen our sense of community, our bonds, and our sense of hope.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you find that meals that are shared bring you more than just a full belly?