Thursday, November 27, 2014

The magic of eating...

We are each in the business of living our lives – of dealing with our own version of the “human condition”… Every day, we laugh, cry and carry on with our “stuff”.  What could be more whole-making than to be in a room full of beloved people related by blood or friendship? … We don't often see each other – but or feast days such as Thanksgiving we come together from our various lives and laugh and eat and tell good stories and drink wine together.  It is a moment outside of time! 
The tradition 
I am amazed at what happens when two people hold a conversation – We merge minds , we listen and learn and care about what the other says – there may be moments of silence and then we respond to what we have just heard… Multiply this by 18-20 people together – talking in groups, talking in twos and threes…sharing, learning, laughing together … Amazing!  (Of course there are  a few  people who hold "parallel conversations" - it sounds like a conversation but they alternately talk... each about their own topic...).   

American Thanksgiving
In these large gatherings I learn remarkable information outside my experience – how to plan a ‘flashmob’ dance event, tales of exciting hikes and travel adventures, how to make a device that inserts replacement valves into the human heart, how to sink a long putt on the golf green, toxic dump site clean up methods, digging fossils in the desert of Nevada, writing about human relationship issues in an electronic magazine.  Of course we have our differences but these are recognized and set aside.

Old friends
We sometimes retell shared stories from our collective past – from our own lives and the lives of those we loved long ago – and in the telling reconnect with each other and with the loved ones.  I grew up in a pre electronic age where family story telling was a valued  art. A  good story teller was prized for his or her  timing and delivery; and how they could draw out a good story, even an old one, and tell it like it was brand new... The unpardonable sin was for  someone else to deliver the 'punchline' before the storyteller got to that point.

Another version of the American Thanksgiving
Sometimes we even play funny games together.  At times we make plans for extended family reunions or shared trips together.  For some this is an opportunity to share the things in our lives that matter deeply, that cause us pain… here is a time and audience  where we can find and give caring support.

Good food and talking is fun!
Sharing food is an important ingredient to communication. What is so magic about eating together with others?  … of sharing good flavors and textures with joking and tale telling. Two people having lunch together can be wonderful – but a noisy group of 18-20 people together – sharing the turkey and the sweet potatoes, the cranberries and the apple pie… That's amazing!
Not that we are all in perfect harmony in these dinners.  There are strong sectarian preferences for raw cranberry sauce and stewed cranberry sauce, there are those that insist on mashed potatoes and others sweet potatos.   Don't even get me started on the disagreements over apple pie v. pumpkin pie ( there are even those that prefer mincemeat pie or rhubarb pie)… But we live and let live. 

OK - I admit it - I'm the one who likes rhubarb pie!
America is such a meld of cultures – hyphenated people – And many function daily in the American economic/cultural setting.  Through marriage, our families now reflect this wider cultural difference – and it is enriching. But holidays are a time to reconnect with heritage – Latino people, African Americans, Greek people, Czech people, Chinese, Portugese… all have a favorite recipe from aunt Bertha, Aaliyah, Runa, Hong, Florentina, Becca, … If someone’s tradition values white bread rolls or sweet potato pie –this is the time to indulge that desire… if we connect with the past better by bringing a recipe from our beloved past – this is the place.

A Fremont multicultural thanksgiving
I realize how fortunate we are – there are families for whom holiday meals are dreaded mine fields.  One of the demons of human communication is that of jumping to conclusions based on partial conclusions… once this occurs it can be so hard to shake free – these false conclusions can bedevil us for years.   There are those that carry grudges from childhood – there are families with harsh disagreements on matters of politics, religion, social issues.  There are those who create stonewalls in their minds – and “if my stone walls don't match your stone walls there is irreconcilable war”. This leads to the “got-ya” phenomenon where one person feels that they gain status by putting down someone else… Heaven preserve us from such anguish.