On the joy of eating together.
Or, the dinner table as a sixth love language.
To the list of five love languages, I’m adding a sixth: preparing and making a meal together. Praise to the family meal, whether the family is blood or chosen, whether the family is 23 people holding heavy plates in a backyard or just one homie sitting across from you.
I think a lot about time. About the way capitalism organizes time. How time spent outside of capitalism is categorized as lazy or reckless. How as an artist with a day-job, I am consistently lamenting over, negotiating with, squeezed by, organizing, suspended in and racing against time. I think a lot about how I can infuse my life with more moments where time is softer.
There is an essay I adore by Ross Gaye on loitering, and in it he writes: “It occurs to me that laughter and loitering are kissing cousins, as both bespeak an interruption of production and consumption.” A dinner table with loved ones is a space I’ve always experienced a speedbump against the organized chaos of my day. Here, time slows. When a meal is prepared with the intention to be enjoyed by the ones I love, ease is also invited to the party and lovingly drapes their arms over everyone seated. Time gentles, slows, waters.
Eating together is on my mind lately, because I’ve just returned to NYC after a month of visiting family and friends on the west coast. While traveling, almost every meal I had was enjoyed across from someone else: apples & peanut butter with Deborah and Hanne by the river, morning toast with olives and tomatoes with Salimatu, jerk chicken and plantains with my grandmother.
What was the last communal meal you remember?
On one of my last communal meals before I hopped on a flight back across the country, my homie took a plastic container of peach slices out from their backpack and as we shared sticky pieces over a crumpled napkin I thought out loud: I don’t think we’re supposed to eat alone.
Let me be clear that this isn’t a ~~shame to all that eat alone~~ proclamation. I say this as someone that very much enjoys their time alone and that eats the vast majority of their meals alone. But I want to make space to ponder about this intimacy I feel when I’m eating with others. How it’s an intimacy I deeply crave and love, especially in having experienced a year and a half of social distancing.
I’m thinking about what the love of our dinner tables can teach us. What lessons eating together offers us around community, memory, tradition, caring for each other, and slowing down our perception of time. There is so much love that goes into preparing and eating a meal together. I think it’s useful, with the time of capitalism always pushing us to rush forward, to distinguish gratitude from what might be overlooked as the mundane or everyday. The dinner table is a space of building memory, sharing knowledge, giving critiques, and offering care.
In a Western culture that is inclined towards hyper individuality, what opportunities are there for community tending in eating meals together? Writer Jonathan Nunn wrote a beautiful piece on tea, in which he noted: “Tea is a collaboration between humans and nature."
I think about cooking beside my grandmother and the women in my life - the magic alchemy of breaking elements of Earth down and reimagining them as something new. How a kitchen can be an interdependent and shared space where everyone’s individual efforts come together to create a communal experience that’s centered on rest and nourishment and pleasure. How Black communities have always used food as protest, and the BBQs and picnics and kickbacks I’ve sat at where stories & critique & knowledge were woven between the plates shared. I’m thinking about how important it is to cook together and eat alongside one another and how it is a practice of collective caretaking, and knowledge building, and reaching towards one another in a way that says “all you have to offer here is your presence.” There is a sense of connection one can feel when eating with others. And that connection is something sacred, something to encourage, something to feed.
On my wall there is a print by Press Press that explores the meaning of “sanctuary”. One of the lines reads: “Protecting sanctuary means protecting people's histories and collective memory.” Can a table that food is shared over be seen as a sanctuary? How to infuse the gentleness, and responsibility, of that sanctuary into our day to day experiences?
Currently, that practice is showing up in a number of ways. Whether taking a moment before beginning a meal to slow down give thanks to the Earth, people, and entities that came together for me to be nourished in this moment, or holding deeper attention and care to bring loved ones together to prepare a meal, or learning about cooking together as an act of healing justice that requires an anti-racist, fat liberation, queer librarion, Black liberation, disability justice lens, or practicing coming to a communal meal as a method of tending to care.
What conversations do you want to invite to your tables? Are there ways to welcome more ease to your dinner table, whether the meal is enjoyed solo or in communion with others? Can a dinner table be an opportunity to infuse a moment of slowness into your day, into the day of those you care about?
Leaving you with these questions, and a whole lotta love.
4 things that made me feel joy 🌸
1. If you haven’t watched High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America, you need to add this to your Netflix queue and with quickness!! I forreal cried while watching this piece. 🥲
2. This EXTREMELY cute slug caterpillar (cup moth, limacodidae). like are you kidding me rn? 🥺
3. This needed reminder that I need all my conflict avoidants to sit with by @sheabutterfemme
4. KyKy Archives: an incredibleee resource and digital archive collecting + documenting the histories of Black Lesbian, Queer, GNC, and Trans People.
3 designs I’m 😍 over
1. Cereal and Such, the Black-owned gluten-free plant based cereal you didn’t know you needed.
2. The Community Cookbook curated by Sienna Fekete. A beautiful initiative that conceptualized as a way to bring together cherished recipes and the memories, traditions, and family legacies we carry with them.
3. I love a good dingbat font, and Good Glyphs takes intentionality a step further by donating all proceeds to @doctorswithoutborders.
2 sounds that make my brain hum sweet songs 🎶
1. The latest episode of Underground and Black, where Detroit native Ash Lauryn leads her musical charge with a candid love for the historical roots of dance music, and the power of reclamation in modern day America.
2. One of my favorite podcasts: Find Our Way with Prentis Hemphill, is full of knowledge and wonderings that are more than nourishing in these times of continual rupture.
1 piece of nonsense
Sending you much love 🕊.Drink a glass of water after reading this email
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