Back in Austin, one of my friends had this lovely little book of recipes collected by the women of the Junior League of Houston called Peace Meals. She would always suggest these amazing sounding meals for dinner that had come from this book of beautiful recipes, so, naturally, I had to get my hands on Peace Meals. I wanted to share the “foreword” of the book because it struck a cord with me. The idea of “family” has always been very important in my family. We all have our own perpetual family traditions such as Bami’s custard for Dad’s birthday, the Fourth of July cookout in Newport, brownies for “shows” with Amy, lasagna on Christmas Eve (and pizzelles for dessert, right Grandma?), carrot soufflé on any big holiday (per request of the whole fam, thanks Mom!), and the list goes on. What better way to pass down the tradition of family than through food? It is tangible, real, and special to just you and your family. I love it 🙂
Who has not, at least once, thought that life in our grandmother’s time moved to rhythms we can no longer quite hear? With comfortable predictability, family houses were cleaned and aired out every spring, peaches “put up” late each summer, winter days made bright with rites of celebration and renewal. And just as holidays and seasonal tasks paced the years, carefully measured portions of work and sleep and play paced the days. Woven throughout it all, nuanced rituals of preparing and serving food marked time’s orderly passing: breakfast signaled each day’s start as surely as Sunday supper meant pot roast, and the annual stuffed turkey expressed a collectively-offered thanks. The patterns that emerged seemed evidence of lives cut from good, whole cloth.
Not so of our lives today. Just as vibrant, but lighter on the ritual and routine, the lives most of us lead are a whole lot more piecemeal than pattern. Good lives, no doubt. But it is easy to wonder, if only in passing, whether all those lovely pieces form anything resembling a perfect whole.
Which, of course, they do.
Because daily life in where Life happens. And inside the patchwork of countless ordinary moments are moments of singular, extraordinary beauty, luminous instants of connection that, when we experience them, revive and restore our souls. Moments like these can happen anywhere at anytime, but it is not surprising that peace so often steals over us when we are gathered together around a table breaking bread.
For even if meals punctuate our days with less ritual than they did our grandmothers’, an ever-present thread running through our lives is food. It is the instrument of physical regeneration, a biological necessity. We eat to live. But there is more to it than that. Food prepared with mindfulness and intent, and eaten with thought and thanksgiving, satisfies hungers that are deeper than those of the body.
Our first and most basic needs are after all, for food and for touch– we reach out for them the minute we’re born. Later, it is at the table that we as children begin to learn life’s most important lessons: grace and courtesy, the art of conversation, the responsibility that comes with choice. The table is where we come to know our own appetites and to cultivate an awareness of what truly fulfills us. As adults we share a meal when we want to mend a fence, seal a deal, celebrate a passage, fall in love or simply take a pleasurable break from life’s clutter with a friend. We share food to connect.