In yesterday’s post, I wrote about a Winthrop Food Matters meeting I went to at Margy and Steve Knight’s house in Winthrop, and I focused on some of the issues that are involved in feeding a community. Today, I want to touch on a less tangible role that food plays (or should play) in all our lives, and that is the role of fellowship.
Before going over to the Knights, I had gone on an eight-mile bike ride, and the day was brisk, typical of late fall in Maine. When I went into the Knights’ house, there was a wood fire burning in the little wood stove in their large kitchen. We were all invited to sit around the table. Steve made tea. I had brought homemade crackers and an olive and rosemary cream-cheese spread. JoEllen Cottrell, the executive director of the Winthrop Food Pantry, brought a walnut cake. Jenn Currier brought bread, and Margy had warm apple sauce simmering on the stove.
In that cozy kitchen—is there any better heat than that which comes from a wood fire?—as I sipped my green tea with honey, ate some walnut cake, and watched as the others dug into my crackers and cream cheese spread, I felt warm and relaxed, happy to be sharing food with these people who cared so much about feeding others.
Craig Hickman, who runs Annabessacook Farm Bed & Breakfast, is temporarily hosting the town’s Hot Meals Kitchen, and the food is served as take-away. Previously, the dinners were held at St. Francis Xavier Hall, where people could sit down and visit with one another as they ate. Craig is an accomplished cook, and I’m sure the take-away food is delicious, but he told us that people really miss the fellowship they had with each other when they ate together in the hall. (With any luck, the Hot Meals Kitchen will soon be back in the hall.)
Food nourishes the body, but it also feeds the soul. Eating together is immensely satisfying, and I suspect this is why so many holidays and celebrations revolve around food. (As long as we don’t eat as though every day is a holiday, these occasional indulgences will do our diets no harm.)
In her review of Richard Wrangham’s Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Christine Kinneally writes, “But what if the roots of who and what we are lie not in this restless and raw state of nature but in our discovery of the secret to a more sedentary life: the home-cooked meal? That is the bewildering, but brilliant, idea proposed by Richard Wrangham, a Harvard-based biological anthropologist.” According to Wrangham, cooking food in fire brought to early humans all kinds of changes, both physical—smaller jaws and stomachs—and psychological—the notions of trust and companionship that come with sharing a meal.
So let us gather around the table as often as we can, with family, friends, coworkers, and members of our communities. Everybody can bring something, and if you really want to impress the crowd, bring these homemade crackers along with a spread. Somehow, making crackers seems like a process best left to big manufacturers, but in truth, although they are a bit time consuming, these crackers are a snap to make. They also keep well in a tin, which means they can be made well ahead of time.
Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman