Saturday, February 26, 2011

#94 - The Communal Side of Food

It's late Saturday evening, and Teresa has just gone to bed. A few hours earlier, the last of the dinner guests left after several hours of catching up, laughter, and yes, good food if I do say so myself.

It was great to catch up with people I once worked with and hung out with, people I haven't seen in several months. The conversation flowed freely, the laughter perhaps even more freely.

That, to me, is one of the great aspects of food. It always seems to taste better when it is shared with friends. I don't know if that is because, as a cook, you try a little harder and the extra effort comes through in the food. Perhaps it is because cooking for friends adds an extra element of enjoyment to the act itself. I think it may be some combination of the two.

After everyone left, Teresa and I watched Julie & Julia, about author Julie Powell's year-long journey through Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Interspersed with that story is Julia Child's years long struggle to finish the cookbook and find someone to publish it. At the heart of the movie though, at least to me, is the food and our relationship with it.

In the film, food is the means by which Julie Powell is finally able to start and complete something, in the case cooking all 500-plus recipes from Julia Child's cookbook over the course of a single year. Food is also the means by which Julia Child finds purpose and meaning in life, perhaps even finds life itself.

When I have the chance to cook for friends, I don't know that I find purpose and meaning, but I do find myself feeling a little more alive, a little more connected with others. Cooking becomes my gift to them, my way of showing them how glad I am that they are a part of my life.

Cooking is mere ritual and eating merely a necessity of living when you have no one to share it with. Cooking during the week often feels the same way, coming home after a full day of work, faced with the prospect of what to cook or, as it is sometimes put, what to throw together for dinner.

Cooking for friends, though, becomes more of an act of love, a special occasion. I may be wrong, but I suspect many of the world's disagreements and misunderstandings could be cleared up or overcome if we could just cook for one another and break bread together. Who'll serve up the first course?

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