How food, and sitting down to eat, is such a unifying experience

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My mother is making me crazy. They are the first to arrive tomorrow for a whirlwind week of family and holiday insanity. Her arrival has been preceded by three phone calls. The first required discussing my sister-in-law’s gift and how she did not understand why the Lululemon sweatshirt that I recommended was any different than the sweater she picked out. Ok. Then buy the sweater. She ultimately chose neither.

The second was a brief call during my workday because she had an emergency. Turns out that the emergency was that her best friend from law school needed a stuffing recipe. I deemed this an issue that could be addressed the following day (a Saturday) and told her so. Follow up emails on the matter were received.

The third call, meant to simply verify airport pick up plans, turned into a conversation about how she now intended to make chocolate mousse cake upon her arrival. I tried to explain that I’d already spent the better part of the weekend orchestrating the menu and grocery shopping. She replied that she knew her way to the store near our house and would go on her own. That’s about the point that I just put the phone down.

It’s a tale as old as time. Kids are driven bananas by their mothers. And mothers are exasperated by their kids’ lack of patience.

Surely my mother's favorite Christmas with me, before I could talk.

Surely my mother’s favorite Christmas with me, before I could talk.

Thank goodness there’s food. Over food, everyone calms down. Traditions are remembered. Old stories told. Laughing usually dominates arguing.

Unlike meals, board games will bring out the worst in your family at the holidays. Look at my mother's sly look as she is about to go in for the kill.

Unlike meals, board games will bring out the worst in your family at the holidays. Look at my mother’s sly look as she is about to go in for the kill.

Whether with friends or family or even strangers, a meal can unify like few other activities. There’s a collective agreement on the process of a meal, plus, it naturally engenders conversation. With mouths full, you have a moment to think before you speak. With bellies full, you feel satiated – you’re not looking to fill any gaps, physically or emotionally.

Everyone brings a little something to a meal together. Whether it’s the food itself, or colorful commentary, or just some wisdom. You’re expected to contribute. And, you’re expected to respect the contributions too. And, you’re generally expected to have a good time – let loose, tell a joke, burp, have the extra glass of wine. A meal, most often, is joyous.

My family will need this in the next few days. And, likely, your family will too.

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