I have always had a personal connection with food. You could even say it is my biggest passion. Dining in expensive, atmospherically dynamic restaurants with unrecognizable combinations of ingredients was always intriguing to me. I loved to try new things and be in creative food environments. It was not until the summer of my sophomore year that I realized there was more to food than fancy plating, exotic ingredients and complicated dishes. Fresh and simple homemade food in its rawest form can bring people who come from different backgrounds and countries together.
In the south of France I had one of the most amazing meals of my life. You wouldn’t expect me to say that the meal I shared was pizza! This pizza was not the fast, deliverable American staple that most kids crave. This pizza was homemade. With the freshest ingredients plucked from the backyard or bought at markets. One night I shared a meal with my best friend and her family. A French couple, a Portuguese man and another couple from Wales also joined the dinner party. We were from different backgrounds and spoke different languages and yet we were able to communicate through the common love of wholesome fresh food.
We all took part in preparing the meal together as a sort of multicultural family. We rolled out the pizza dough with smiles on our faces. I felt a sense of pride knowing that we didn’t have to communicate with words to know that everyone was enjoying the company. We proceeded to adorn our pizzas with various meats, vegetables and cheeses. I realized that this moment was even more beautiful than any sophisticated, trendy restaurant would be and soon enough we slid the pizzas in the outdoor stone oven knowing that we could all make something together despite our linguistic differences.
The night ended with everyone belting their countries anthem or song. It was not a singing competition or a chance to have nationality bragging rights; it was a genuine appreciation and respect for every person there for sharing something that was part of them or where they came from. The woman from Wales sang a sorrowful Russian folk song about the struggles encountered in life. The man form Portugal had recently experienced loosing he wife to cancer so he courageously sang a love song and the French sang their national song as we soon attempted our own. It was an unforgettable meal shared in the company of complete strangers who felt like family.
I believe that sharing bread with someone brings you closer together. There is no controversy about eating; food does not have any political or religious affiliation. It is simply a means of nourishing the body and a way to celebrate life with others. I have learned that you don’t need to be surrounded by elegant people eating five star cuisine to have an amazing meal. The good food acts as a binding solution to mend borders, old alliances and bring people together.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.