How eating together builds bridges, even community
There’s a reason that religious and civic organizations routinely host neighborhood potlucks, spaghetti dinners and weekend brunches as part of their outreach or fellowship programming.
It’s because everything goes down better and easier with food! There's value in eating together.
“Yes, a potluck is about gathering at a table to eat,” writes Evelyn Bence in Why church potlucks are here to stay for a seminary website called Building Faith. “But mostly to participate with a community by sharing our individualized contributions—table fare and conversation and presence.”
Sharing food—whether at home with family, out on a date, or as part of a public gathering of some sort—involves arranging ourselves around a table or counter. Then there’s passing of plates and condiments and napkins, almost necessitating eye contact and some degree of conversation. It all adds up to a very effective and time-tested icebreaker.
We all know that sharing food works on a more intimate, romantic basis. Why else would so much about dating center around meals and restaurants? I myself met my future spouse at a mixer featuring chips and guacamole. It had a Cinco de Mayo theme. It had a political purpose. But over the nosh and some refreshing and complementary sangria, we soon talked the evening away, getting to know one another and forgetting all about the organizers’ purpose along the way.
Food sharing breaks down barriers, builds bridges
A large part of the value of eating together is that food can elicit the kind of ordinary chit-chat that works like social lubricant, helping to create connections, camaraderie, ease. We’ve heard stories of shared meals making friends of a former white nationalist and a Jew, making peace between anti-Muslim protesters and worshippers in the targeted mosque, as well as helping to open the doors to diplomacy between different countries.
Taken to the next level, we at Our Recipe for UnitySM believe this kind of energy can ultimately build bridges and make our communities better and stronger. It will require some open mindedness, intention, and maybe a tuneup of our communication skills and techniques. And that’s why you’ll find those kinds of prompts and tools and resources here, throughout the pages of this website.
We’d love to hear your reactions to this article, as well as our White Paper on The Value of Eating Together. Please drop us a line as a comment here, and, better yet, share a Recipe or Food Connection Story of your own experience in which food helped bring you and another, or others, together.