Four nights in a row I've cooked for/with other people. Each night has included a raid of the fridge to find what's there and get creative with it. All but one night included time around the table and even then we paused and, quite literally, passed the pasta bowl around.
I mention this because I've been focusing lately on the power of the table.
At lunch the other day with three incredible women familiar with various faith traditions -- Judaism, Unitarian Universalism, Pentecostalism (now agnostic) -- I was enjoying our exploration of spirituality and shared the metaphor once given to me by an untraditional Baptist pastor, "I envision a table and around that table are Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and more and we share a meal and talk. When we leave the table, each of us has a greater understanding of God than when we first sat down."
I said it was reframing of the blind men each touching a different element of the elephant who have always been said to be in argument over what really defined the creature. In this version of the experience, the debate ceases and me and my take on the leg informs you and your take on the tail.
Perhaps due to the fact that I don't spend that much time in zoos, the table imagery evokes much more in me. I love good table talk . . . so much so that I often wonder why designers seemed bent on creating beautiful yet terribly uncomfortable dining room chairs. I like to push the dishes to the side and linger over a dessert of new thoughts, ideas, stories, and laughter.
I sometimes wondering if stimulating the palate also stimulates the soul. I'm sure there's been many a revelation spilled while downing Happy Meals and sodas, but that's family and our love for our children has us always on the ready to be inspired or challenged. I doubt however that in the speed of downing something from the drive through few people have delved into any great thinking other than bbq or sweet and sour sauce.
Around the table . . . with freshly made raviolis covered in a shrimp and mushroom wine sauce or with a steaming cup of vegetable puree kicked up a notch with a touch of Louisiana or tender chicken breasts sliced and covering feta-infused couscous . . . these are the ingredients that season conversations about hopes, dreams, philosophies. And at my table, your taste is your taste. You can add more salt. You can even ask for catsup. You can say what you think. And you can definitely bring a friend.