December 26 – Soul Food
What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?
I love to eat, so I feel like I’ve eaten many many meals that have been worthy and enjoyable this year. I’ve found a common connection in my foodie co-worker, and we’ve thoroughly explored the restaurants near our church. J and I tend to savor our meals out (which are so few and far between), I wonder when I might have had “soul food.” We’ve shared some celebratory sushi, and a dear family gifts us a meal at an amazing local italian place – I can see and smell and taste that amazing fish I had there last March, baked covered in a blanket of breadcrumbs and spices…yum!
But, what actually comes to mind are the meals shared by my family at “summerfest” – an annual gathering of siblings and cousins and second cousins and nieces and nephews over a long weekend at my folk’s place on Lake Michigan. Each year, we share the cooking and cleaning for each meal, choosing the menu and divvying up the tasks. We had missed this gathering in 2009, and so I found myself feeling more appreciative than ever of my widening family, my elder cousins, and their now almost adult children. Cooking time together is perhaps the best part of the weekend: the shared preparation and cooking is a treasure, but also the dancing and drinking and snitching food before it’s out on the tables and general laughter and goofing around. It is the fullness of it all that is ‘soul food’ – extended into the evening with s’mores and leftovers. Not just the eating, but the gathering, the sharing, the connection around food and fellowship.
My sister said to me this past week that she’s been trying to develop some traditions around the holidays that don’t have to do with food, since so many of our rituals and traditions are centered around eating. And while I know she is truly mindful in that – mindful of the importance of having some rituals and traditions that don’t involve stuffing our faces, I also notice how the basic nature of table fellowship, the gathering, the lingering, the hospitality in offering food, the shared need of our bodies, the joyous pleasure of it all, is inherently binding. It requires so little, and the results of table fellowship are exponential.
As I look back on 2010 and look ahead to 2011 I realize that I miss entertaining. We used to have people at our house all the time for dinner. It’s harder now, with kids to juggle and bedtimes and wondering what we would serve etc, not to mention our continually tight budget. But I miss the gathering around the table with people we enjoy. I miss welcoming people into our home and laughing into the night. I want to do that more in 2011. I want to cook for other people and listen to their stories and share mine. I miss being a part of giving and recieving soul food. And I’m committed to doing that more in 2011… Perhaps you’ll find yourself at our table sometime soon…?