October 17, 2011

The Art of The Meal

I'm in Minneapolis right now, visiting some of my dads, and our dinner tonight got me thinking about The Meal. The Meal is not real for everyone, but it should be.

It's an art, The Meal. It's not just the food on the table or the people who eat it. Done right, The Meal is a collective pause, a deliberate hiatus from whatever else is going on.

The food matters, of course. And the people, too. You can't have a Meal with crap food, and you can't have a Meal with crap company. But I've been at plenty of "food-consuming occasions" where the grub and the group is great, but the energy is wrong. People pull out their smart phones to check sports scores. Or they look at their watches every few minutes to make sure they won't be late for What's Next. They aren't willing to contribute themselves to what's happening in front of them.

I get that none of us have time to eat only Meals. Sometimes, we have to shove a sandwich in our collective faces and rush to a meeting.

But I had a Meal tonight, and it was a gift. We ate roasted chicken and acorn squash, and braised carrots and baked sweet potato chips, and we drank a bottle of wine. And we talked to one another about anything that came to mind, and we contributed ourselves to the occasion.

So many people don't have enough to eat, or live in angry, disjointed families that couldn't possibly stand to sit together without a T.V. buffer. Those of us who do have the means and the capacity to enjoy Meals owe it to our over-worked, over-tired, over-stimulated selves to just stop from time to time, and to let the act of sharing a Meal force us outside our own heads, even for just an hour.

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