Breaking Bread Together
One of the earliest and most academic endeavors we undertook while getting Our Recipe for UnitySM established was a review of the academic and popular writings on this topic: the value of breaking bread together, sharing a meal, commensality (eating and drinking at the same table); leveraging food as the great unifier across communities and cultures. Here are the highlights of our findings. We invite you to read, explore, comment, and suggest other resources we might include here!
HuffPost UK (Jan 29, 2018) profiles a Sikh innovator who transforms waste into feasts where strangers share a table “as equals whilst being nourished and connecting with each other.”
The Washington Post (Oct 15, 2016) profiles Derek Black, once a prominent white nationalist, who changed after a peer, an Orthodox Jew, invited him to Shabbat dinner.
Feastly, an online marketplace through which chefs offer pop-ups, supper clubs and other food experiences, builds on the idea of “the dining table as the original social network.” (Forbes Aug 5, 2016)
About Islam (Feb 9. 2016) explains Conflict Kitchen, an eatery and social justice experiment in Pittsburgh, PA (currently closed), whose focus is “what unites us rather than what divides.”
The Harvard Business Review (Dec 2015) looks at research around encouraging employees to eat together as a way of building higher-performing, more cohesive teams.
Says study author Kevin Kniffin (Cornell Chronicle Nov 19, 2015): “From an evolutionary anthropology perspective, eating together has a long, primal tradition as a kind of social glue.”
The Atlantic (Nov 2015) says the simple act of gathering around a table to share a meal means we are “almost forced to look each other in the eye and to converse.”
Human Performance (Vol 28, 2015 - Issue 4) examines commensality in a workplace quite unlike most corporate cafeterias and identifies real bonding and performance benefits.
This Time magazine recap of a Belgian study ( Nov 8, 2014) explains, among other things, “Sharing food primes people to think about fairness... authority… and greed.”
The sharing economy—in this case, specifically a startup called Mealku—looks to connect strangers via sharing of homemade food. (CityLab Aug 7, 2013)
Listen as NPR’s Here & Now host Robin Young explores the idea with home chef Surinder Marbha, who hosts Indian dinners through EatWith in Dallas (May 23, 2017).
“The success of Conflict Kitchen London clearly shows the importance of food in bringing people together to find common ground.” (HuffPost, The Blog Sep 29, 2014, upd Dec 6, 2017)
Workplace lunchtime socials encourage productivity, team-building, wellbeing, communications, and happiness. (by the global employee engagement company Reward Gateway)
From longtime chef, caterer, food tour guide, team-building guru Victor Pisapia: “Preparing and eating food together has been important across many different times and cultures.” (Apr 15, 2014)
Offering food to a stranger “is part of elementary hospitality in most cultures” and can “create and recreate families, friendships,” etc. (University of Tartu, Dec 23, 2015)
(edited by Susanne Kerner, Cynthia Chou and Morten Warmind, Bloomsbury Academic © 2015)
Across cultures and time, human beings have eaten together, and this act of commensality, as a fundamental social activity, creates and cements relationships.
(by Alice P. Julier, University of Illinois Press © 2013)
According to the author, when people eat together, relationships are defined, boundaries of intimacy or distance are set, and people find themselves either excluded or included.
(University of Illinois Press Oct 6, 2009)
This book explores the idea that table activities—the mealtime rituals of food preparation, serving, and dining—lay the foundation for a proper education on the value of civility, the importance of the common good, and what it means to be a good citizen.