Breaking Bread and Building Bridges
Making the World Smaller Through Food
Do you remember the first time you went to a friend’s house and ate something really different from your normal? That first bite of spicy salsa or chili sauce instead of ketchup. Passionfruit instead of raspberry jam. A lamb burger in place of ground beef. A sushi roll instead of tuna salad. Or Southern fried catfish fillets instead of sashimi. Rice with tempura instead of spaghetti.
Maybe this happened at an early age, maybe not till you left home. Food lets you connect to new ideas and people as well as experience flavors, textures, traditions, habits, and customs from others.
Food starts conversation. “Mm, that’s a nice crunch on this seaweed. Interesting.”
Exposing yourself to new cultures and new experiences builds bridges.
Open Yourself Up
Recently, I posted a story about how a daughter witnessed her now 70-something year old mother being ashamed of her culture – and the food – when they moved to a new country. Her fear of not being accepted made her diminish such a huge part of herself.
We can see where we have room to grow, to expand our hearts and minds. Welcome the differences in others’ cuisines and cultures, using it to learn and connect rather than alienate and shut down.
Our Food is Part of Our Culture
Some of our earliest memories are ones of sounds, smells, and tastes. From the very beginning, food is such a huge part of who we are. It’s a part of our identity, where we came from, and a connection to our roots. Food grounds us. Comfort foods that satiate more than just hunger. Those things are different for everyone, across every culture, every country, every family.
They are a part of more than just our cultures, they are a part of who we are as people.
Food is a Great Connector
Learning about different cultures through their cuisine allows us to appreciate them more. What’s the worst that can happen? It doesn’t make your tongue happy? No big deal.
And the best things? You find new flavors or textures to enjoy. Ask why this dish is a family favorite. Why did they cook it every Tuesday night? What meals did they eat only on holidays?
Red curry, kimchi, tacos de papas, macaroni hotdish. These are the colorful flavor backdrop to mind and heart-opening conversation. What you do with it? That’s up to you.
Breaking Bread as an Act of Peace and Great Unifier
While the video I mentioned is a prime example of how NOT to connect, there are some things you DO need.
- An open mind
- Courage to step out of our comfort zone·
- A child-like curiosity/genuine interest/no judgmental attitude
What do you gain?
- Knowledge of differences in culture
- A deeper appreciation
And we can apply this to understanding people in a different generation. Your 4-year-old bringing charred toast and a glass of juice to you for Mother’s Day. That holiday you taught the kids to make gravy or challah bread (because someday she’ll be hosting the holidays). Serving grandma your version of her apple tartlet. (Tartlet. Tart-let. Tar-t-let.)
Let us bond over buttermilk biscuits and connect over cookies.
Bring the family, friends, neighbors, coworkers together with some good food. Try the dumplings and bulgogi. Taste the squash casserole. Nosh on African peanut stew. Hang out, love on each other, and be together. It’s nice. Even if you don’t get down into the nitty gritty of things, it opens the door for when you need to.
Eating a meal together won’t fix all of the world’s problems, but it can help us recognize and see the humanity in others. And I think that’s a great place to start.