Even as a little girl, I sensed that something special takes place when people share a meal, and given my Italian and Southern Scotch-Irish heritage, our family enjoyed some amazing meals when we gathered for reunions, all of it foreign to our bland Midwest palates: spinach-stuffed ravioli and polenta on the Italian side – crab, collards and biscuits at Mom Minnie’s. No wonder I was a pudgy little kid.
Those meals not only filled my tummy, they satisfied my soul with a deep sense of belonging. Imagine sitting around the table, with people speaking Italian, or listening to my larger-than life uncles tell their crazy stories of life on a shrimp boat! Laughter was the main ingredient of those hours-long meals and I remember feeling like I was part of a larger story.
It turns out I was on to something; as I’ve studied the ancient tradition of hospitality, I’ve learned something special does indeed take place when we gather together to eat. In Christian circles, we often call taking the Lord’s Supper ‘breaking bread.’ Jesus gave his life, (became broken bread) for us so that we might have life.
Breaking bread can also refer to the common meal. Something equally mystical happens when we gather together to break bread – strangers become companions, a word whose literal meaning is “the one with whom bread is broken.”
Interestingly, the Scottish word for companion is “marrow” – the essence, the best part. It can be a simple sharing of rustic bread and rough red wine, or an extravagant seven-course feast, but the best part, the essence, is the experience of companionship.
THE LAST COURSE: The part about the marrow reminds me of a teacher friend of mine, who as the end of her summer vacation approaches, likes to say that she is “sucking the marrow out of each remaining day.” She knows how to savor the riches of her life.
So the next time you gather around the table, do it with an attitude of expectancy. Slow down; take time to truly appreciate your ‘daily bread’ and be thankful for the very best part….each other.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM AN ITALIAN FEAST:
Roasted Italian sausages and grapes, bathed in olive oil and rosemary, accompanied by polenta and white beans with sage. The meal was molto bene, and so was the fellowship!