Meals in Common

Why is food sacramental? Why does Babette's work have the power to heal these people's hurts, to bring them joy (see Babette's Feast by Isak Dinesen; a fine clip from the movie of the same name follows)? Why does eating together knit community more specially than other activities? Does it?

Eating is associated with the first sin and redeemed in the wedding at Cana, the multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, the Last Supper, the breakfast on the beach after Christ has risen. Think of all those fine shared meals--from Abraham with his mysterious visitors to the Passover. Think of the marvelous meals in literature--the Fezziweg ball, the pancakes at the end of Brothers Karamazov, the picnics in Wind and the Willows.

And yet, in our busy fast-paced age, how many meals do we eat in common with family or friends? How many are rushed? I was doing chores today at the farm, pouring slops into the pig-trough; our meals oughn't to be merely for nourishment when they could serve this end and so much more. A friend told me about a school in Italy where lunch was served to school students at round tables with silverware and china.  Lunch took a full hour. There was a bowl of fruit in the center of each table. And this was not a rich school. This was normal.

How could we rearrange our systems and schedules and influence the wider culture to make meals in common possible?  I was thinking how difficult it would be now to schedule the Last Supper these days.  Would everyone come--without being told beforehand that it was the last, that it was to change everything?

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