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Eating At the Table

Debra Redalia

 


 
I’ve been taking an online masterclass with Alice Waters at Masterclass.com, and the last lesson was “Coming Back to the Table.”

It’s all about eating around a table with family or friends—slowly—having time to savor the food and each other. Deep conversation. Getting to know each other.

I cried because I want this and don’t have much of it.

I was born in 1955 where the icon of “dinner was a family sitting around the television, each one with their own separate foldable “tv table” with a “tv dinner” on it (if you’ve never had one it’s a frozen dinner that comes in an aluminum tray with sections that have a meat, a vegetable, mashed potatoes, and sometimes a dessert or condiment like cranberry sauce).

Growing up, we would go to my mother’s parent’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. We would have the whole Thanksgiving dinner, Armenian-style, since they were both Armenian. And we would sit at the dining table together.

For Christmas, my father’s five aunts and uncles would come to one aunt’s house in a forest, next to a creek, with a fireplace and plate-glass windows all around the living areas so it was like you were outdoors. At a very young age I was taught to make the “relish plate” which required no cooking. We all sat at the dining table with very formal place settings and cloth tablecloths and napkins and made polite conversation.

So I never had the experience Alice speaks of that she learned in France of eating togther, cooking together, talking together, all in the welcoming and supportive atmosphere of the table.

* * * * *

When Larry and I moved to Florida, one of our goals was to live in a house big enough to have a dining table and a living room big enough to have people over for parties and community meetings. And we found that. But mostly what we had were potlucks, not sit down dinners.

The first meal Larry and I had together was with our mutual friend who introduced us. The first meal we ate alone together was sitting on the sofa watching the sitcom “Cheers” while we at vegetarian lentil chili from a can. We barely spoke.

But there was a period of time when Larry and I did sit down at the dinner table week after week and ate and talked together.

It was in the year 2000 when we were not doing well in our relationship. We decided to borrow the Jewish tradition of the Sabbath dinner and made a commitment to eat together every Friday night.

We chose this tradition because we had no religious traditions of our own, and the Sabbath is a time for rest and renewal. There is a long history of having practical reasons for taking a day of rest each week. This even carried over into my lifetime. For about the first twenty years of my life, stores would close at 5:00 and on Sundays so everyone could have a time of rest. That stores are open now late hours, 7 days a week, and even 24/7 is due to industrialization, to sell more products. Life naturally has periods of activity and periods of rest.

In the Jewish tradition, the Sabbath is more than a day of rest from work, it is a weekly opportunity for a full-day spiritual respite. It is a day set aside from the responsibilities of worldly life to devote to honoring Spirit in ourselves, our loved ones, and in all of Creation, on Earth and in the heavens.

There is a whole ritual to a Sabbath dinner with many parts and it extends for a full day, from sunset to sunset. The most meaningful part for us was the Blessings a dinner, where the wine and bread are blessed. And then the husband and the wife give blessings to each other, intending good and giving thanks for what they appreciate about each other that week. They invite Spirit to the table.

Taking this time to spend with each other at the table, eating a special meal together, honoring Spirit and Earth in our lives, giving blessings to each other, and doing it week after week brought is back together in a new and deeper way. Still today we smile when we recall these dinners. It was a very special time for us.

And it all happened eating at the table.