Time with our family either begins or ends with a meal. We all enjoy food. When we all gather around a table to eat an ease comes to our time together. The pace changes, the conversation lingers giving time for the second question to be asked, eye contact is made.
For as long as I can remember, dinner has been a family event. I do not remember this being a rule or even a stated expectation when I was young, it was just how it was. My parents both worked full time jobs, outside the home. It was there in the dining room of my childhood home where we would reconvene at the end of the day. I can’t say that during my teen years I “lingered” or even gave my food time to do much more than hit my stomach before I was up from the table and on to whatever I wanted to do next. But the invitation was there.
Not only was there an invitation for me but there was an invitation for whoever might stop by to visit. I remember so many times, family and friends stopping by our house to borrow or return something, or they were in the area decided to stop by to say “hi.” The invitation for them to have dinner with us was always given. Was there always enough at the time the invitation was delivered? Maybe not but the message was “You are welcome to slow down with us.” Other than grandparents and my friends, the invitation was rarely accepted on a whim. But the intention was received.
I wonder what would have happened if the invitation was accepted more often. I can imagine my dad, being an avid outdoors man, running to the freezer to grab game from the hunting season previous to thaw, prepare and serve. He and my mom enjoy hosting. And his store of meat in the freezer, that he can cook in every which way, and his trophies hanging on the walls of their home are always hot topics of conversation for guests that come to visit.
The food I ate as a child was not gourmet but it did what it was intended and more. We eat to satisfy hunger. We are hungry because our bodies use nutrients from food as energy. Our bodies require food to perform the most basic tasks. But I believe our souls need food for basic tasks too. Food is essential.
As I am eating there is more happening then a simple satiation of hunger. My thoughts are clearer. My blood pressure decreases. My pace of breathing slows. And on a good day, I can remember to be intentional in enjoying the moments and the flavors. The flavors, whether enjoyable or not, pull out memories or create new ones. The experience and memories are that much richer when you are sharing a meal with others. This takes the phrase “soul food” to the next level.
Fancy, lavish meals are great. But not required. Charcuterie boards are a favorite of mine to share with family and friends. Meats, cheese, crackers, fruits, olives, and maybe a vegetable because I try to add them in every chance I get. Nothing is cooked or put together. The flavors are grand and bold.
Another one of my favorites is a whole night! The who family gets excited about Small Group Night. Small group is very much what it sounds like but with a purpose- a small group of people who attend our church who gather together to learn more about a faith study or topic. My husband leads our small group, apart from the study the other big item for our group is food. Sharing a meal builds conversation and relationship. We have discovered very talented cooks. We have also become more familiar with the backgrounds of the people in our groups through these pitch-in style meals.
This week, the food theme for Small Group Night was “Breakfast for Dinner.” It was not fancy, but it was just right. Everyone brought something to share. We laughed. We learned biscuits and gravy are a favorite of one of the families. We learned another member of the group has a gluten allergy. This lead into a lengthy discussion on the progression of disease and how to substitute for flour in different foods and the foods that have wheat/flour in them that you wouldn’t necessarily think would. I am fascinated by all of these topics and that meal together at the table allowed the time and space for conversation.
I am so thankful for people that I get to spend time with at the table. Whether the meal is gourmet or simple. Pitch-in or delivered. The time together at the table nourishes the soul and the belly.
Are you filling your soul at the table?
Maybe your schedule is full and eating meals together looks more like going through the drive-thru and eating in your car. That’s okay. Sometimes schedules are busy. But I do want to encourage you to look at your schedule to see if there is a meal in your week that the whole family can sit down and enjoy together. This will take effort and will require you to be intentional to make it happen. But I can tell you as a grown-up who shared meals with my parents as a child, I am thankful for that invitation that I was given and for the second question when it is asked.