Blog: Gather Together: A Journey Thru Food

Gather together community meal

Gathering Together” A journey thru food

What we gain and what we lose with the conveniences of modern living

Faster than Fast:

It takes a village”

My husband Emilio grew up in the Dominican Republic, and he can’t remember a dinner he ate during his youth without his nuclear family. Even when his mother had to raise 5 boys alone, she woke up early every morning to make their lunch, and was home to make dinner every night. And at least once a week, they gathered for a meal with his large extended family, all who lived locally, and ate food from the family farm. In his family, there is a reverence and commitment to eating together.

I was born here in the American suburbs, and I can remember plenty of disjointed, hurried, slap dash meals that had nothing to do with “Gathering Together”. We were always rushing thru meals for various reasons. The only time we made it a point to eat together as a family was holidays. On these occasions we prepared our families’ traditional dishes such as matza brie for Passover or my Aunt’s Christmas mac’n cheese.

The decision to eat together as a family can be a matter of culture, religion, tradition, family choice, physical distance, and/or economics. Some cultures hold much more strongly to the idea of eating together as a family, however this, like many traditions can be lost within a few generations.

What is the price of convenience? What have we traded?

Most of us are guilty of pulling a microwave dinner out of the freezer, popping it in the microwave, and then scarfing it down in front of the TV. This is in no way uncommon in this country. And this can be done alone, or with family, or roommates. I have created meals like this or similar, including a pot of instant mac n cheese, hot dogs, and other fast foods that can be prepared in minutes in the home kitchen.

Is this easy and convenient, oh yes.

What do we gain? Time. The first thing we gain is time. That is VERY convenient. But what exactly are we all doing with this extra time?

When I was in college, a quick and easy meal meant more time to work. So that was an advantage for me. Working 40 hours a week or more, I rarely had time to cook. (Not that I knew how. I still remember my friend and I in our dorm kitchen trying to figure out how to boil and egg. We exploded 4 before we figured it out). And I had STUFF TO DO!. Work or homework or the party I HAD TO GO TO. I had places to go! And eating was an inconvenient thing I had to do to get it over with so that I could go and do something “better”.

I remember one summer internship I was working 8am to whenever I passed out, and my hatchback was littered with fast food wrappers. Absolutely papered with them. I really didn’t have time for anything else.

If we gain time with fast food, what do we lose? The social bonding of a community working together for a goal that benefits everyone.

(For any of you Weston A. Price people who are also yelling “nutrition”! I’ll get to that another time).

Gathering around a wooden table with knives and cutting boards, and bare hands, talking, laughing and telling stories, all contributing together to the community meal.

These days in my life, my meals are all about preparing and cooking food with friends and family, and eating Together. My understanding about what food means in my life has changed profoundly.

While most weeknights it is just my husband and I, we do prepare meals from scratch and cook together. Long, slow cooked recipes he learned from his mother back in DR.

On the days that I am lucky enough to have the time to eat with friends, I gather together with my fellow Suburban Foragers and Eastern Light Project friends and we prepare meals as a group, and eat together as a group using a combination of foraged and local farm foods.

Sometimes this takes form as a Suburban Foragers cooking Workshop. Sometimes it is just an enjoyable Sunday afternoon. And most recently it is Joyful Thursdays, where we gather at Cropsey Farm to cook food for the hard working farm team and some of the volunteers. It is a wonderful way to encourage community, and to give thanks for all their hard work.

The days when I can gather together with friends and family, and prepare food together in a group are my favorite. We gather an assembly line of cutters and dicers and cookers and slicers. We cook as a group, eat as a group, talk as a group, and clean up as a group. This is my favorite way to experience food. It is peaceful and thankful, social and nourishing to the body, but also our more esoteric parts. Those bits and somewhat undefinable pieces that are commonly considered neglected by our modern societies’ irreverence for the lost wisdom of slower times.


Whatever your village is up to, find the time to gather together.





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