This morning I awoke with two words rattling around my brain – food connects. I kept turning them over and over, sort of chewing on them; but it wasn’t until I had a cup of coffee that I really started thinking about the idea. When I did, the first thing that popped into my head was a little ditty I had heard on TV a million times when I was growing up. It goes a little something like this:
“Conjunction junction, what’s your function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses. Conjunction junction, how’s that function? I’ve got three favorite cars that get most of my job done….”
If you’re near my age, you’ll probably have the tune stuck in your head for hours after you read this and you’ll struggle to remember all the words. Never fear, just click this link to a YouTube video with lyrics!
But I digress. Food DOES connect. First date? Dinner and a movie. Catch up with friends? Let’s do lunch. Crisis? People bring food. Engagement? Engagement party. Marriage? Wedding reception. Funeral? You get the idea. People connect over food. Food is part of our comfort, our celebrations, and our grief.
Family traditions often include food. In my family, one of my favorite traditions is Christmas Eve dinner. We do our version of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Talk about food! And when I was young and we lived closer to my extended family not only did we eat at home on the holidays, afterward we visited extended family and ate some more.
Food can even penetrate a language barrier. Several years ago Jeff and I travelled to Ecuador on a missions trip with our church. Fortunately for Jeff, when he was in high school he took several years of Spanish. I did not. As a result I was often frustrated during the trip – wanting to connect with people, but having to wait for a translator to help. It was interesting though, that at meal time the barrier didn’t seem quite so high. Everyone gathered together at the table and communication somehow seemed simpler. I don’t know if it was because the bilingual people were all in one place or because everyone relaxed when the food was served and had something other than what made us different to concentrate on. The food was something that made us the same – the need for nourishment – the desire to enjoy the meal and the company. Webster’s Dictionary defines FELLOWSHIP as “the companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere and on equal terms.” That is what our shared meals provided – a level playing field.
So food connects us to people we love and even to strangers. It can also connect us to memories. How many times have you smelled something – cinnamon buns, bread baking, hot buttered mashed potatoes – that made you flash to a childhood memory? Now I don’t know all the science behind it. Words like “olfactory,” “amygdala,” and “hippocampus” are best left to science class if you ask me. But I do know that the smell of food can make me think of a specific event or a particular person.
It’s simple. Food connects.
Well, I’ve got to run. I’m meeting a friend I haven’t hung out with in a while. We’re reconnecting…over sushi and a movie!