I have just read the first chapter of James Twyman‘s new book Love God and the Art of French Cooking. It’s about a French chef, Roger, living in Canada, talking to James about life. He has a very mystical perspective on what food means and what it means to cook and eat. So far, the book seems interesting. Anyway, this reminded me of an experience I had, couple of years ago, that I wrote about on my Facebook notes and I thought of posting it here too.
I also find food, eating, sharing and preparing it a spiritual experience and can carry much more meaning and importance than we usually tend to see or appreciate. Something ordinary can truly be something extraordinary and magical. So I will share my experience I wrote over two years ago:
The magic of breaking bread in ordinary life
Couple of evenings ago, I had dinner with my daughters. My boyfriend wasn’t home, so it was just the girls and I. It was a regular evening with every day chores like homework, cooking, talking and dealing with the laundry. It was nothing out of the ordinary. The girls came from school in the afternoon; each of them had a friend with them. For those of you who don’t know about it, I have two daughters, Tanja who is 15 years old and Tiina who just turned 11. I gave all of them a helping hand with their homework and afterwards they talked about why some people (read friends and foes) are dumb and some aren’t. But they did it in the context of gossiping. And of course in the native language of teenagers, mind you, with no full sentences and a lot of abbreviations with the fast-forward button activated. Tiina and her friend did their best to keep up with the two older girls’ words and slang. It’s an interesting ride to be part of teenagers’ conversations about life, love, fears, friends, foes and secret emotions. I love it. I took part with all my presence I could muster.
The conversation passed over to more serious things; like that many young people don’t feel they have an adult to deeply confide in. My daughters and their friends shared their inner thoughts that made me feel honoured. I know that at a certain age you, as a parent, may not be the first to hear what your children think, does and/or feels on a deeper level. Most of teenagers walk and talk in herds, busy defining themselves and rolling their eyes, letting you know that your comments are lame, so not up-to-date and having the habit of answering with monosyllabic words. They think that adults are a strange species that show no understanding. That maybe true, but I’m a person who believes that children need to be listened to, often and honestly, on their terms. So when moments like this come up, I try to do what I can to take part and be present.
Anyway, when my girls’ friends left and it was time to prepare dinner, homemade soup and loaf of French bread, my daughters lingered in the kitchen and talked to each other. Tiina had got a book about puberty from Tanja earlier that morning and started to read. When we sat down to eat, she continued to read, as nobody else was present. We don’t usually read while we’re eating, not in company anyway, so I asked her if she could share what she read. She started to ask questions about growing up, puberty, sexuality, how I had felt during that time of my life and how Tanja felt about it now. The questions were so sincere and at the same time so truth-seeking that I realised it was a powerful momentum of transformation for her. It was a moment of reverence, for the continuous journey from childhood to adulthood through adolescence. It was a calling to be mindfully present to the circle of life. Tanja and I exchanged looks and somehow both of us intuitively knew that it was an important moment that linked us close. After a few minutes talk, Tiina closed her book, seemingly content with our answers, and said she was going to put the book away for the rest of the evening in a special place in her room. When she came back to the dinner table, she sat down and suddenly said:
-“Mum, at this very moment I feel safe growing up. I feel seen ”. Tanja and I stopped eating and just looked at her. “And do you know why? Because I have what I need ”, she continued and smiled. “I’m happy to hear that, sweetie” I answered. I felt very moved by her words. The love I felt for my children at that moment is beyond description.
There were two pieces of the loaf of French bread left and all of us wanted to have one more piece. Tiina asked her big sister if they could share the bigger piece, so I could have the smaller. She agreed and we shared the bread in silence. I sat there and watched my daughters share the bread after having passed intimate thoughts on and I felt blessed. The energy in the room was electrified and yet so calm. A deep serenity surrounded us and we were so emotionally close to each other.
I’m a person who regards that food isn’t just the necessary chemistry to keep your body healthy and alive. Food helps people to talk and celebrate and in its best it brings people together and fills up the soul. The simple soup and the loaf of French bread symbolically filled our souls that evening.
I think we tend to miss to provide for these moments to emerge in our ordinary life, because we are so busy making up other plans, so busy moving forward and looking at the future or the past that the present is an absent perception. Yet the present moment is always there, a constant flow of Now that will move toward the past and still be something that arrives from the future. Our conversation made me aware that we should do our best to live through our hearts. Share each other’s company. Enjoy life. Seek deep and ordinary pleasures. Eat in such a way that everyone is invited to your table. Something ordinary can turn into something extraordinary.
Therefore I perceived, and still do, my dinner with my daughters a couple of evenings ago, in every aspect of it, as a – Holy Communion.
What ordinary experience(s) do you find extraordinary in your life? Please share your thoughts below as it can be an inspiration to others to take to heart.