Food is about far more than survival to me.
My wife has convinced me that our table should be an altar. Our time around this altar is about blessing, reflection, community, love, and celebration of life. This is a relatively new development in what is roughly a seven year-old marriage at this point. We’ve always eaten – but we’ve not always communed – we’ve not always slowed down and enjoyed our time around the table.
While it probably wasn’t the first step, the precipitating factor, I think was trashing our previous alter – 20-something inch RCA, mind-numbing box that I bought nearly 10 years ago now, when I first moved to North Carolina. We had started to become more pragmatic in our thinking well before this and so our television and our Dish Network subscription were both casualties of this newfound thought.
The major rationale was not, as you may think, because we were wasting too much time, our our relationship was suffering.
Nope. We just wanted a chair.
In our relatively-small-but-far-larger-than-adequate apartment, our living room area is fairly cramped and the large electronic artifact and it’s stand simply took up too much room. Practically, because we literally only watched The Office on DVR and various episodes of things on the Food Network, we tossed it and it’s pedestal out.
It wasn’t some exercise in intellectual superiority. We are not better than you. We simply wanted a chair.
In the same way, that a balloon floats high above when it’s no longer tethered to the ground, we began to notice that things were becoming less the same than they had been. We weren’t forced to talk to each other – we were freed to talk to each other. We didn’t spend more time in the kitchen out of boredom, we were freed to not rush to the living room to choose one of the 113 episodes on our DVR.
What had happened was that we smashed the altar that we had created and had worshipped at every night and were converted to the altar of the dining room table. Around this altar, community happens, even in our own home when it’s just the two of us. Appreciation of food and drink is about more than sustenance – it is about provision and life and happiness and a connection with the earth itself. Ingredients eventually become our body parts and so we have become aware of the people, and places, and the care that went into growing and harvesting and preparing what we eat.
The clinking of glass against glass, the silence of a savoring moment, and the eyes-closed appreciative pause reinforce that all of this is spiritual – that all good gifts – food, drink, friends, life – are sent from heaven above.
And now, instead of wanting to make sure I record every episode of The Office – I want to invite my friends to come and sit and commune at our table, however scratched, and shaky, and humble it may be. These moments are the ones that matter. These are the moments that redeem us to our rightful place in creation and with each other. These are the moments that teach us about restraint, and satisfaction, and community, and respect. Everyone around the table matters. Everyone around the table can have a second helping- but the guests more so.
Enjoy your time at the altar. Turn off the distractions. Commune. Enjoy.