(Food and Water is part of a series inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem, Poets to Come, which expects writers to write about the main things.)
Dinner is served, each dish familiar and lovingly prepared. The family and a few friends stand around the table that has become an altar and give thanks. It is Thanksgiving. Though each of us is grateful for the food, none of us mentions it. Instead, we express gratitude for those main things that make us happy. This ritual is a main thing. It makes us happy, and we are grateful.
Whether it’s an elevated holiday meal steeped in tradition and shared with family, or a Sonic #1 combo eaten alone in the car, meals are communal. Even when eating fast food alone, farmers, distributors, cooks, and wait staff make the meal possible. But it’s harder to see the connection.
I have eaten alone more this past year than at any other point in my life. There’s a loneliness and sadness to that. I miss meals with college friends, when we laughed until our faces hurt. I miss hurried breakfasts, as the children rushed off to school. I miss weekly neighborhood potlucks, canceled because of the pandemic. The food that I eat alone nourishes me physically, but I am emotionally and spiritually hungry.
I bet there are others who feel the same. May we find each other and share a meal.