If you have sat at my table, you have been well loved indeed.
Recently something happened in my life that brought about a conversation between me and my mom. It wasn’t a bad thing that happened (just one that stretches you when you weren't prepared), or a bad conversation – more of one of those you need to hear when someone who loves you reminds you of your gifts and your heart. And I needed to hear it in a bad way.
It’s not that I didn’t know the things she was saying, it is that certain something had caused me to doubt everything that I have become, especially my time spent in the kitchen, as well as the love language that I speak and the gifts that have been so richly bestowed upon me by my Maker. I guess a writer would have used the phrase, "I lost the plot." And for that moment, they would have been correct.
You see, I am a foodie…through and through. Food, all kinds, and drink speak to my soul. I find that food was used so many times in the Bible to bring about connection and love and relationships. It was around the table, breaking bread and drinking wine, that the sweet conversations with Jesus were had – and the hard ones too.
I love that…hook, line and sinker – I embrace love and laughter over the dinner table (or breakfast, or lunch, or mid-day snack!). This is my gift: hospitality, serving, making, giving of myself through the nourishment prepared.
Some people will read this and think it is hokey, or contrived. It is not…I am sincere with every word I write – the planning and preparing of a meal is a spiritual connection to God for me.
It starts in the planning. What will bring a smile to the face of those who will sit at the table? What will bring about those sounds of pleasure that, in my opinion, actually make people slow down and savor not only the flavors, but that brief moment of life around the table. I wonder what it must have been like in Martha’s kitchen as she planned a meal for Christ and the disciples?
Once the food is selected, then it is the drink. Will it be a wine, or a punch, or perhaps hot tea (depending on the meal and the time of year, and the guests)? What enhancement will the drink bring to the flavors of the food? The drink is the ‘accessory’ to the meal – but it makes the statement that lingers, because it is usually the drink that will stay in one’s hand, and on one’s lips, beyond the meal and into the rest of the time together.
Then there is the shopping. Oh this really brings me joy. Picking the best produce, the most perfectly marbled meat, or freshest fish, makes my heart smile. I actually enjoy lingering in the grocery store on the days I am shopping for a particular meal. I dream of having a full garden where many of these items could be picked from my own yard. Deciding what herbs and spices I’m going to use and seeing if I can’t get them fresh. I dream once again of visiting the market for these things with those who prepared the meals for King David’s court.
It is the complexities of flavors that each item brings to the meal that fascinates me. How one herb can add the perfect note to a dish, and another will completely overwhelm it. How the tannin content in one wine will compliment a chocolate sauce, but another will cause such bitterness that the flavor is ruined. Or, if I’m using a wine in a sauce, which wine will add richness to that particular sauce and the meat that it is drizzled over?
I’m enthralled. Nature and chemistry coming together. It’s magical
And then, to bring it all together, placing it on a plate and bringing it to the table to serve to those whom I treasure. Each detail of the tablescape and place setting thought out.
Don’t get me wrong – there are meals served from the grill on paper plates and drinks in Solo cups. However, even those quick and easy meals are planned and prepared with a deep love.
I want my tribe around the table to leave satisfied. Be it a fancy meal or a paper plate meal. Be it drinks in etched wine glasses or pop out of a can.
You see, while the meal and the preparation is important for me…and is my connection and nurturing…it’s really not about the food. It is about the love that goes into making it. It is about the connection that happens when people sit down together to share a meal, break bread and share a glass as it were. That is the soul nurturing that happens around the table. Those are the moments that you learn the hearts of those around you. Over casual conversations that occur organically. Over the hard discussions of family decisions that have to be made. Over the raucous laughter of a shared funny incident or story.
To me those moments are what life is about. What family time is all about. Those are the moments, around the table, on a picnic blanket, sitting on the tailgate of a truck, those are the moments that are woven together to frame the tapestry of life. There are many cultures where love is expressed through food. I understand this.
And so, I embrace who I am in the kitchen; what my gift are and how I show them, and I move forward to grow, and learn and live.
Remember, if you sit at my table and eat with me, you are loved, and loved well, in my home and in my heart.
(...and now I'm off to cook and plan the next meal at my table.)