This I Believe

Christina - Palo Alto, California
Entered on September 1, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: pleasure
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This I Believe

I believe in good food and the routines and rituals that can surround it. Good food requires time and thought, it requires preparation and imagination, it requires putting convenience on hold.

I used to joke that if I became president, I would institute a national teatime. What doesn’t make sense about taking a break in the afternoon and sitting down to a cup of tea and sweets with others? Dreams of the presidency long since passed, I have become satisfied with my own version of teatime.

It began in college with the need for a snack in the afternoon and a sweet tooth. It continued into the world of work with a gap in my day. I was finished with my workday by 4 and was hungry, but my ride home wasn’t ready until 5:30. With that hour and a half, I began my walks to a favorite cake shop for a slice of chocolate cake, a tea, and some reading, sometimes a visit with a friend. Ten years, a husband, and two kids later, the kitchen table has replaced the cake store. With a two-year old and a seven-year old, it hardly remains the reflective pause or reading opportunity in my day, but through the scramble to eat the brownie or cookie, I am convinced I am passing on a valuable tradition: I am showing my children the pleasure of slowing down, and I am creating a space for connection.

But it is about more than the eating and sharing; that is the culmination of a series of routines and rituals I have come to need and enjoy. I am someone who falls asleep planning dinners and menus, ones that celebrate the seasons and remind us that our food comes from the earth: peach cobbler and pesto are for summer and pumpkin soup and apple crisp for fall. My favorite errands involve food and have been shaped to include rituals; at the farmer’s market we begin with crepes and move on to vegetables and fruit, at the grocery store, we begin with breads and end with ice cream.

Good food is something tangible. As an English teacher, I spend my days in the world of words and texts and ideas, discussing, questioning, and explaining, and hope to inspire and create better thinkers. As satisfying as that is, it can be refreshing to leave the rituals of the classroom for those of the kitchen. I can make soup for friends; I can offer muffins to neighbors; I can send chocolate to family far away. These things we touch and take into our bodies are ways we become a part of one another.

The poet Joy Harjo writes that “the world begins at the kitchen table…It is here that children are given instructions on what/it means to be human. We make men at it,/we make women.” At this table we are connecting with people, nourishing the body, taking time to pause and savor—and these are things I believe in.

Word count: 499

Christina Gwin