Lately I've been thinking about food quite a bit, which isn't so shocking. After all, we just ended the holiday season of overeating and I'm opening a cafe! I've specifically been giving thought to how food connects us, how preparing a meal and eating together is something we have in common with complete strangers, with those who speak another language, or live on the other side of the world.
Food and the space in which we consume/share it are the two components required for a meal. As I work to open The Burley Market & Cafe I am constantly thinking about how food plays a role in creating an experience.
I've heard some scientists and medical professionals state that food should merely be viewed as nutrition --the sustenance to maintain our bodies. Their belief is that we should strip away emotion from food to avoid overeating and using food for comfort. To some extent I get it, but goodness that sounds boring! Food can be so wonderful and experiencing food, especially in the company of others, is potentially one of the healthiest ways to foster community, bond with others, and appropriately mark a moment in time as 'different' than others.
For some of us food is just what it is. Something we eat to satisfy hunger. For others (like me!), we are a little more passionate about combining flavors, cooking, and presenting food on a beautiful table. Food preparation and ingredients are like a hobby in my home --one shared with my husband and stepchildren. For millennials, in particular, food is very experiential. They want high quality food, ambiance, and an experience- whether that is out or at home.
On the flip side, some of us simply just love to eat! Skip the work and just have someone prepare it! My grandfather jokes that they only bought a stove for decoration in their kitchen...they love to eat out! While some look forward to Grandma's cooking, well, we order pizza at mine!
I am a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations. If you haven't ever watched it, I highly recommend it. The show is more than just a commentary on food consumed around the globe; Tony has terrific conversations with people all over the world who share the importance of food as a lifestyle, their culture, and more. They speak about traditions in each culture, how people work together to prepare it, the origins of the food, how ingredients are acquired, and ultimately how people come together to share it.
Over the holidays I really thought about how deeply important food is to our family's celebrations, whether we're celebrating Christmas or Independence Day. (We have Christmas eel --that's a blog for another day!) I thought about food associated with every holiday and about the people I have shared those meals with. Some people are still around, others aren't.
Food is part of what marks a special occasion, whether it is a celebration or for comfort. When someone passes away, it's custom where I live to bring food to the family. When someone is ill, you may take them some soup. When we celebrate a birthday, we do so with cake! The smell of food, how it is presented, the types of food on the table, the circumstance in which we consume it, and those we share it with all contribute to what feels like a holiday or a marked occasion.
I've been working in the wedding industry in some capacity for several years, which began with my first wedding planning gig in 2008. It's been a wonderful adventure and I've enjoyed connecting with so many people to mark a momentous day in their lives, a day that most often include FOOD! Depending on the type of wedding, food is usually the most expensive line item and the reception meal is the centerpiece of what is usually the most important part of a couple's big day. So much time, attention, and money is devoted to the meal--the first meal they share as husband and wife with their friends and family. Not only is the food important, but it's probably the most attention a young couple has ever given to a table setting --tablecloth colors, chargers, napkin colors and folds, centerpieces, types of candles, menu printing, types of chairs, style of tables- the list goes on and on! And after months of planning, they share a beautiful meal with those most special to them.
I've made mental lists of times in history when food and gatherings around the table were a part of a notable occasion. For Christians, the most notable three days in the Bible began with supper! Before his death, Jesus brought his disciples around the table for what is known as "The Last Supper" and broke bread with them. He served wine. He utilized food and drink as a symbol. He utilized the meal as a time to bring everyone together and to communicate. It's a supper that is so important that Christians continue to remember through Holy Communion 2,000 years later.
Our relationship with food is not just with consuming it, but rather, it is about our relationship with mealtime. For some it's lonely. For others it is about sharing it together. It's about conversation at the table, storytelling, laughter, and sometimes it is about family arguments (can you relate?!). Whether you are having a holiday celebration, a girls' night with a bottle of wine and a plate of cheese, or a cup of coffee with a friend-, the sharing of time together with food and drink feeds our souls. When I watch Anthony Bourdain's shows, I am always amazed by the different cuisines (either salivating to eat it or disgusted by it!) and am always reminded how humans all over the world ultimately share those common basic needs --shelter, air, water, and food. We need all of these things to survive, but it is food that binds us with others and feeds us in a different way- a way that can make us thrive.
Our mission at The Burley Market & Cafe is to allow you to share meals at our table or yours. Come to the cafe for a bite to eat, share a conversation with someone over a cup of coffee, or end the day at our bar sharing drinks with friends. We promise superb quality and a great experience.
Come to our market to buy ingredients, cheese, treats, dishes, and cooking tools to make and enjoy dinner at home at your own table. And if you know someone sitting alone at their table, invite them over for dinner. Table time with food and people is medicine.