Food: A tool for unification, connection, and peace.
I have always been a huge fan of people, I am an extrovert in every sense of the word, I love talking to strangers, being the center of attention, and bringing people together. I also love love love food! So where does extrovert meet food? For me it meets about 9 times a year.
There is truly something special about breaking bread with your neighbor, a stranger, your love, your family, friends, and even the enemy. There is one specific point in history where food literally brought war to a halt. Food brought a war to a halt. That is a powerful reality. In December of 1914 soldiers who had for months been fighting one of the most gruesome battles of the war, stopped fighting to share food. Here is a video reenactment of the infamous day. (https://youtu.be/NWF2JBb1bvM)
Food has been a catalyst in so many of my fondest memories, it is the centerpiece of my favorite book, “Like Water for Chocolate.” Food is life, food is friendship, food is love, and food is nutrition. I was fortunate enough to host the second annual pre-Memorial Day BBQ Kickoff this past Saturday, I share that because I am very fortunate to have a wide network of people whom I truly appreciate in my life. There are my rugby brothers and sisters, my family, the food and beverage team, baseball players, writers, designers, architects, engineers, social workers, teachers, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. All of under 3 tents in a small backyard getting to know someone we previously had never met, sharing stories, connecting on personal levels, smiling, laughing, hugging, high fiving, and communicating one person to another. It was beautiful. This was FOOD’s handy work.
One thing I feel we have lost over the last 10 years as American’s, is the tradition of sharing a meal, we have forgotten what it is like to share hand torn bread with a stranger. It’s easier to post a picture of that amazing meal you’ve prepared than to offer your neighbor a bite. Social media has allowed us to only share or brag about what we have. And maybe that is just my view, but when was the last time you had more than 4 strangers at your table? When was the last time you broke bread with a family that didn’t speak english? It is uncomfortable, it’s tough. But it’s also rewarding, heartwarming, and unforgettable. I want to challenge you to get outside yourself, prove me wrong, show me how you interact within your communities.
I’ve stated where I see a problem, so how do we challenge ourselves to find a solution? My short answer? Throw a party and invite your friends to bring friends you’ve never met before, prepare that go to dish your friends rave about and make enough for everyone to get at least a little nibble but leave them wanting more.
Two of my favorite memories about sharing food with strangers.
- I believe it was either Memorial Day or 4th of July in 2001 maybe. I was stationed in Vilseck, DE as a member of Bravo Company 2/63 Armor, we had a sweet little outdoor patio and grill, I had bought a bunch of flank steak and chicken, two of my battle buddies brought the brats and beer. We invited a handful of new to the unit soldiers, I grilled, we talked we learned about our new soldiers who would ultimately become some of my closest friends. Those men went to battle me they would’ve given the same sacrifice for me as I would for them. And to this day that offer still stands. Food made that happen, being just a little uncomfortable and willing to break bread with a stranger.
2.) It was the winter of 2002, B Co. 2/63 Armor was on our second deployment to the Balkans stationed at Camp Bondsteel Kosovo. Our mission while there was to help keep the peace under the U.N. Flag, we did lots of walking throughout the country and for the most part the families in these communities were timid and often really didn’t want us there, although we were there to help, who in the world wants to be told they need outside help? I surely don’t. On one of our daily security details around the the city of Urosevac. While we were on patrol I could smell the glorious aroma of grilling meat, as we continued around our patrol we came across a gathering of locals playing soccer and grilling whole goats, with the permission of our leaders we stopped and unloaded our battle load packs, we played soccer and I was offered my first taste of “Goat.” To say the experience was spiritual is a fucking understatement. The joy in the eyes of the kids we were playing soccer with, the smell of freshly grilled goat, the caramelized flesh, rubbed with salt and spices, the laughter and joy in all of us. With very little opportunity to communicate verbally, we still found common ground in food and sport, in smiles and handshakes. Those men, women, and children did more for me in that 45 minutes then they may ever comprehend, they taught me about the power of a smile, the vitality of food, and what the meaning of kindness truly is; it’s playing a game with men you don’t know, it’s sharing what small amount of food you have with soldiers you fear, it is the act of breaking bread.
These stories will always remain with me no matter where I go or how I get there. They are a part of me, they are a part of who I am fundamentally. I want to share these experiences with you so that you can share your experiences with me. Please take a minute and leave a reply to this with a story of how food brought you closer to a stranger, let’s work towards the solution, let's get on the same page and break bread.
A special thank you to the men of Bravo Company 2/63 Armor, the family whom shared their feast, my grandmothers, mom, dad, uncles, aunts, Lisa for giving me the title to this post, and all the fine people who came out last Saturday to the BBQ Season Kickoff! Y’all are fantastic humans. I am truly grateful to have you all in my life thank you.