Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2019 issue.
In these days of division, many of us are looking for ways to come closer together. Food, meals and eating together can be ways to build bonds and become closer with others.
Here are five ways that you can use food to unite with others:
EXPLORE THE TRADITIONS AND FOODS OF ANOTHER CULTURE.
I’ll never forget the first time a couple of friends and I tried Ethiopian food. We had no idea what to order and let the server order for us. When the food arrived, it was in a huge, round platter with thin bread on the side (and no utensils on the table). The server explained you use the bread to scoop up the different items on the platter. We enjoyed the food and talking with the server and others at the restaurant about the food and culture. Choose a culture you don’t know a lot about and research their food and food traditions. Learning about another culture’s food makes the world a bit smaller.
BE CURIOUS WHEN TALKING WITH PEOPLE ABOUT THEIR FOOD CHOICES.
Learning about why others choose to eat the way they do — as long as it is approached with an attitude of curiosity — can be an opening to understanding. Ask “I’m curious to understand why you choose to eat the way you do. Can you tell me more about it?” Then, listen with an open mind. Rather than assuming why someone eats a certain way, get curious and seek to understand. You might be surprised what you learn.
SHARE A TABLE WITH A STRANGER.
When you go into a restaurant that is full, or almost full, rather than waiting for a table of your own, ask someone or another couple if they would share a table with you. You may be surprised at the conversations you’ll have. Not only does it provide the opportunity to meet new people, it allows the restaurant to seat more people.
HOLD A THEMED POTLUCK.
Choose a theme — maybe a style of eating (like vegan, vegetarian or paleo) or a country — and invite friends to each bring a dish that meets the theme. This helps everyone try new dishes and eat together. During the meal, each person can describe the dish they brought and why they chose it. They can also talk about any traditions around the dish.
Even more intimate than having a potluck is having friends over and sharing the kitchen. One person (or group) could be responsible for each course. Everyone brings what they need to cook — they provide the food, you provide the space and utensils, pots, etc. — and take turns in the kitchen cooking and cleaning up. That way, not only do you get to enjoy a multitude of dishes, you also get to see how they are made. And, since the cleanup is also shared, no one is left holding the dish towel.
Photo by Lee Myungseong.