If I go past entry number three without talking about food, those who know me will begin to question the honesty of this blog. I love to eat, especially other people’s food.
In his book Brain Droppings, George Carlin suggests world peace through formal introductions. I believe potlucks could accomplish the same end. Eating together is an intrinsic human behavior, like language, perhaps because of the bonds it forms. We may say all sorts of critical things about someone, but if he or she brings a fabulous spinach artichoke dip to the party, a lot can be forgiven.
I once took a long, overnight, third class train ride in China. The very accurate Chinese term for third class is “hard seat,” but they sell far more tickets than there are seats, or did in 1997, and I was sitting on the floor with a crowd of fairly cheerful Chinese people, far more cheerful than I. I spoke Chinese well enough to get around but far short of fluency and often understood my fellow passengers’ questions but didn’t have the vocabulary to answer them.
At one point during the night, the two people nearest me, better prepared than I, broke out their food and offered me some. I declined. It’s good form in China to politely refuse a couple of times and then accept, but I continued to say no. They hadn’t planned on feeding me, and I didn’t want them to spend the night hungry.
Then they asked me a question I couldn’t have answered even if I had known the words. It went something like this: What’s wrong with you Americans? You think you always have to look out for yourselves, but here we look out for each other. Needless to say, I accepted the orange soda and the sausage stick and redoubled my Chinese efforts. (A sausage stick does not belong to the sausage family. It resembles a cold hot dog wrapped in red plastic the way some cheeses are wrapped in red wax. It has the shelf life of a twinkie and tastes as delicious as it sounds.)
Closer to home, one friend in my office recently made my day when she brought me a breakfast burrito for no other reason than that she had made one for herself. Another brought me peas from her garden because she knows they’re my favorite.
Their thoughtfulness reminded me to follow suit, and I delivered banana bread to another office during a stressful time. I’m as capable of believing I don’t have enough as the next person, and sharing what I do have cures this feeling faster than anything else I know of.
We are a species capable of incredible generosity and incredible selfishness, and both are contagious. Offering and receiving food opens that generosity within us. So let’s eat!