I love food.
I love food like I love Jesus: unconditionally and with all my being. I can’t live without either, because without them, I am left unfulfilled. Literally.
I am one of those people who eats her feelings. Because I’m Southern and that’s what you do. I won’t speak for all Southerners, but the best ones do.
I also make food memories. Wherever I go, one of the things I will always remember is how amazing something tasted when I finally ate it. For instance, the greatest sandwich I ever ate was not the CB & J at Hopleaf, nor was it the falafel and pita sandwiches stuffed with homemade hummus and pickled red cabbage from the Palestinian Occupied Territories (but damn, that one is right behind the best one). It was a peanut butter and cheddar cheese sandwich on a bagel. Sort of gross? Yep. But it was the best because of circumstances.
Back in college, some friends and I from the camp we worked for, took a canoeing trip up to North Carolina for a day or two. I think there were about 6 of us on that trip. It was wonderful. We had a blast. By mid day, we were famished. We had been paddling all day. We were wet, a little cold, exhausted, but also had plenty of adrenaline flowing through our veins.
About lunchtime, we stopped and spread out the random food we brought with us for lunch on a warm rock in the middle of the river. In my bag, I found a bagel and some peanut butter I had snagged from the camp kitchen, and a block of cheese that I picked up at the store. We had already started our day off with instant coffee and oatmeal, so lunch was a step up.
That peanut butter, cheese, and bagel sandwich was the best sandwich because it was pure carbs and protein. It was just what my body was screaming for. We sat on our rock and shared our food, just relaxing and talking. It was a holy moment where we broke bread together in the midst of our chaotic paddling, where we sat and basked in God’s creation. It wasn’t an elaborate meal, and it wasn’t really thought out all that much. It was pretty much made up of things that we just grabbed along the way. But everyone got their fill and we finished paddling to our camp ground.
Having a meal together is one of the most important thing we can do as humans. It is a time of pause, where people can be together. It is a time of sharing, where people can come together to help feed each other. It is a time of conversation, where people can check in with one another. Sharing a meal is so much more than just nourishment. It is a time of endless possibilities.
This past week at the NEXT Conference in Atlanta, GA, I had several meals with people. I spent my first meal alone, in my room, live-streaming the speaker. It was relaxing and calming: just what I needed. But every other meal after that was filled with check-ins with friends, laughter, conversations on white supremacy, the patriarchy, on ordination, on funny drawings by children, on stories of children and spouses, stories of home, and more. That’s how I want my meals: memorable and fulfilled.
I pray that we not only have these for ourselves, but that we can provide them for one another, because there are so many who don’t have the chance to have these great meals, or any at all for that matter.