Meals: Celebrating being human

My uni course has started again and I wanted to write down and share a couple of quotes that really stood out as I was doing my readings this week. The topic was ‘meals’ and I love the picture that these quotes paint for us. Of a meal as central the sharing of human life. I could go on but they speak quite well for themselves. Perhaps they interest you too!

“… scholars are aware of the importance of the meal in the eating system – as a symbol, as a ritual, as a unifier, as part of socialisation, as a distinction – and of its relationship and meaning to all of human life and culture”p87 (that’s right, all of human life and culture. Wow, big wrap right?!)

“Eating a meal does not only amount to eating certain ingredients cooked in a certain way in a certain order. With whom and under what conditions we eat is also important”p90 Makela, Palatable worlds : sociocultural food studies. 

“A meal may signify unity and sharing; but it certainly does more, it enacts or effects this sharing” p105 Otnes, Palatable worlds : sociocultural food studies. (Meals are the way we share our food and one of the most important ways we share our lives).

“Meals are embedded in social life”p123 with “commensal partners [those] … people chosen to share a meal … [with] commensal eating a risky act, both physiologically and socially [because] ‘you are who you eat with'”p122-123 … (I thought this was particularly interesting in light of Luke 5:27-32, and others before me have suggested that Jesus’ radical choice of eating ‘companions’ was one of the reasons that He was so disliked by the leaders of His religious community. An interesting reflection if we as His followers are called to do as He does. Who should/’shouldn’t’ we be eating with?).

“Meals are social events that provide great sensory pleasures, divide up the activities of the day, and delineate appropriate times when everyday life must or can be interrupted. Specific ceremonial meals are often used to demarcate social cycles over years and lifetimes. The interactive and communal aspects of meals provide opportunities and obligations for sociably, where people who consider each other’s company to be important meet and share food. Sociability at meals can provide a useful window into broader social patterns.”p127 Sobal, Dimensions of the meal : the science, culture, business, and art of eating. (We use meals to mark and measure our times and our lives, and are a window into who we want to share our lives with).

“We humans have cycles of eating, which are diurnal, weekly/monthly, seasonal, annual and biographical. Each meal has a beginning an end and a certain drama and sequence …”p42 Jones, Feast: Why Humans Share Food. (A meal can be a story, but lots of meals can also tell a bigger story, the whole story of who people are individually and who we are collectively and historically. They are very important!).


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