July 27, 2018

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Eating provides nourishment for our bodies, minds and souls

Cynthia DewesOne of my friends once said that when we talked about our vacations, we mostly described what we ate. We all laughed, but I think that eating is somehow always memorable. Whether eaten alone or in groups, our meals provide more than physical nourishment.

I remember one meal which was centered on grief. Our beloved beagle, the Noble Max, got run over one day by a neighbor. He had only one enemy, the dog across the street, and he was running over to fight with him when he ran in front of the car. The neighbor was devastated and took him to the vet, but it was too late.

The kids were eating dinner alone because my husband and I were going out that evening. They could hardly take a bite between tears, and we thought twice about leaving them. We were grieving too, because Max was one of the family. It was a dinner we all wanted to forget.

On a more cheerful note, we think of the Sunday family dinners portrayed so well in the TV series “Blue Bloods.” Four generations sit around the table, sometimes arguing, often being supportive of each other. They discuss their work, their relationships, their hopes and fears. And they always begin the meal by saying grace. It’s a great model for the Sunday family dinners we hope are going on all over America.

Immigrants often find that coffee with their fellows makes the change to a new country bearable and fun. My Norwegian grandmother managed to have coffee with her Norwegian farm ladies from neighboring farms now and then. These sessions lifted their spirits and gave them something to talk about for days.

On rare occasions, we might get invited to a formal dinner, not as fancy as the ones on “Downton Abbey,” but upscale from our usual ones. That’s when we get to show off our knowledge of which utensil to use next, using our napkin daintily and waiting to be served. We also get to dress up a bit, which is fun once in a while.

Another meal we really enjoy is our Sunday-after-church lunch with friends. When we can, we get together at our favorite hamburger place and catch up on the week’s events. Of course, we critique the Sunday homily, the music chosen, or whatever else of interest happened at church, plus our upcoming plans, visits, etc. It’s a great way to keep up with our pals.

Once a year, we travel to Minnesota for my family reunion, which features a meal to end all meals. The table groans with everything from Swedish meatballs to baked beans to cherry pie, all made by wonderful cooks. We also attend a lunch with my high school class, which is dwindling as we speak. We compare notes on who has passed away, and we reminisce about our school days, from kindergarten through high school.

Sometimes eating alone can be gratifying. We get to read a book at the table, or write bills, or just daydream without worrying about being rude. We also get to eat as much or not of whatever we feel like. We can listen to music or watch TV, and no one is the wiser.

Eating provides nourishment for our bodies, our minds and our souls. How clever of God to make it one of the necessities for human life.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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