My love for food and cooking was cultivated by my mom who made dinner for our family most evenings. I know we live in a different time and most of us feel we’re too busy to cook, but can we really afford to miss out on all the benefits of a home-cooked meal?
Besides the nourishment that comes from good food are the relationships that feed our hearts and spirits. Every night my siblings and I pulled our chairs up to the table, and even though we fought over who got to sit where and I complained about the minced onions in the meatloaf, we had each other and a place to belong. Our family meals served as more than nourishment for our bodies; the dinner table was a mooring where we could always find safe harbor.
As I’ve grown older I’ve wanted to create my own anchoring environment for friends and loved ones. Cooking helps create this inviting atmosphere and gives us a reason to gather. Community thrives around food and while food nourishes our bodies, the people gathered around that food nourish each another. How often have you left a meal at someone’s house and thought, I really needed that? You probably weren’t reminiscing about just the pasta or berry trifle, rather the time spent lingering over conversation. It’s the communication and connection we sorely need, perhaps even more than the homemade meal with all its nourishing qualities. In short, food is a reason to get together, but it’s the getting together part that fuels our souls.
Cooking is also therapy. After an especially long workweek, I relish a couple hours in my kitchen to chop vegetables and herbs, prepare a cut of meat, or put a soup on. Since fewer and fewer of our jobs require us to work with our hands, I find anything I can pound, knead, or stir to be especially cathartic. I also find that working in the kitchen is the one part of my life I can control. This is not to say that every dinner or baking adventure turns out perfectly—I’ve burned an unreasonable amount of pine nuts over the years—but generally speaking, the kitchen is a place where I can create something and succeed. Plus, the ingredients don’t talk back to me.
It’s not a secret that our society is busy and hurried, meaning we’re not just missing out on nutritious food but also meaningful community. We’re a connected society when it comes to technology but many of us are lonely when it comes to live, in-person relationships. Cooking can help this! When you put a meal on the table and extend a simple invitation, people will come. And don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to make something fancy or involved. With a little planning and a few recipes that include simple and whole ingredients, you can have a meal on the table in less than an hour, and start building a community that will last a lifetime.
Kelly is on a mission to encourage women by speaking, writing, and singing throughout the United States. She also does a large part of her work on a boat along the Amazon river with Justice & Mercy International. She shares with thousands daily how to foster community through gathering. In her first cookbook, A Place At The Table, Kelly offers recipes, tips, and heartwarming, personal stories with the hope of meals turning away from quick transactions of consuming something for fuel into sharing a meal for nourishment and community.