In a recent post, I promoted a great little book that I’ve been reading called take this bread by Sara Miles. I love the message that Sara shares about being the body and blood and of sharing that with those around our table. This idea that sharing a meal around the table does more than satisfy our physical hunger, it somehow feeds our spiritual and emotional hunger as well has deeply impacted me. In theory anyway.
A few nights ago, I hosted an intimate dinner party for one of my best friends. I remember the first time she and I met in an incredibly ornate conference room of the private equity firm where she served as in house counsel. It was less than a month after the horror of September 11 and we were both just a little jumpy as we watched private jets making their final aproach to the Santa Monica airport. That meeting cemented our life-time love. When I had called to wish her happy birthday, I told her I wanted to take her out. She was having none of it. “Cook for me!” she had demanded. I did not make the connection.
Birthday dinners growing up meant that my mom would cook whatever we wanted. Ria is family, so this dinner would be no different. A leg of lamb was marinated in a special rub, then roasted to perfection, garlic-rosemary potatoes were mashed to buttery goodness, asparagus was steamed in white wine and drizzled with a light sharp cheddar, wine and garlic sauce and for desert, an angel food cake of course. Paris and I spruced up the house, lit some candles, set the table, popped open a super nice bottle of champagne and a couple of bottles of wine and greeted our guests. Then we sat around the table and ate. Each other.
Yes, I said it. We ate each other. Not literally of course. Literally, we ate the heck out of that lamb. Ria and our friend Steph are bird eaters. They peck and push their food around their plates. But something happened as we sat around the table. The wine flowed freely and the food kept on coming. And we ate.
It wasn’t until later that I looked back and saw the connection between the dinner and the book. In a string of e-mails, Ria expressed to me how much the evening had meant to her going as far as saying it was the best birthday ever. Heck, it had been a great evening. Steph, story teller that she is had regaled us with stories of the remodel of her bathroom leaving us doubled over on the floor. Paris and Ria had found themselves putting their best hip hop “Soldier Boy” moves on display. Of course it was a good birthday dinner. Except I quickly came to realize that it was more. Paris woke me up the next morning telling me, as only a 9 year old can, just how “awesome” the evening had been. Steph called and left a message saying that it had been the most amazing evening (and lord knows, that’s got to be saying something because she’s at the hottest Hollywood nightspots several times a week). It clicked. We ate and were fed. I guess you could say, we experienced church.
That evening, coupled with my re-reading of Sara Mile’s book, sparked something in me. Last year was a year of hunger for me. I needed to eat but it took sharing a meal for me to realize just how malnourished I had allowed myself to become. But not just me. All four of us were affected deeply by the basic act of sharing our food. This basic act takes on such deeper meaning when we realize that without food and drink we die – physically, emotionally, spiritually. To grow, we must eat. basic.
The invitations are being finalized this weekend. The menu is being tweaked. A wine list is being drawn up. The guest list has been expanded. We need to eat. Bringing our food to the table, we will serve each other. We will eat, drink and be filled. And we will gain strength to go out again into our world and face our demons and we will without being faint. Because we ate. basic.
March 1 is the next basic dinner at my house. If you’re in town, you’re invited.