Chapters 5 & 6:
Nourishing the spirit and flesh by gathering for a family meal is indeed a powerful mixture. In these next two chapters, Weinstein weaves her research into not only a narrative of people’s lives but makes a compelling tale of how families and individuals make a difference in the lives of a community.
The lives of women were turned upside down during the 60’s and 70’s as the feminist movement played out and more women found their “worth” in working outside of the home. This era created some radical and extreme thinking – but I am a survivor of that period. Women were told that it was beneath them to “slave” over the stove and care for children; that their place in society was more beneficial as a working woman. I did not listen to these voices as I stayed true to the belief that family and home were somehow more important than my career aspirations and my “contributions” to society was to be a stay-at-home mother.
However, many women did not have that luxury, as the feminist movement created a backlash of broken marriages. Women had to be not only mom, but the bread-winner as well. The story of Lynn F. was not uncommon during this time. Recognizing that something was wrong and rediscovering a child’s joy of helping through basil leaves made a profound change in her family. Though budget and times were still lean, Lynn F. learned that the children’s involvement in meal preparation and planning helped mend their wounded family.
The nourishing aspects of meals can be taught, but understanding the value of preparation as a former restaurateur, Rosalie Harrington did, by educating others through a local community outreach program. What a selfless act of service she offered. At this stage of my life, I try to do the same within our women’s Relief Society organization. What good does my knowledge have if not shared? That is how I learned, from other women and men sharing and teaching principles of food preparation to me. This has been a source of joy as I have watched my own children individually explore food preparation in their own homes, as well as the countless women I have been able to pass along information to.
With the numerous choices in foods that surround us, and the time we allot to eating is it no wonder that there are so many eating disorder issues. According to Ellyn Satter, parents and children have forgotten that “eating and sharing food are inherently pleasurable.” Instead, meal times have become a tug of war. Through understanding the responsibilities of both parent and child and in addition, learning to “relax,” families might be able to enjoy more meals together rather than become a short-order cook for finicky eaters.
It was interesting to read how those Weinstein interviewed felt deep spiritual feelings for the linkage of the “bread” and “body.” It was a great reminder that others have profound faith in Christ. The truth that is spoken by others not of my faith is the same in the homes of my family. A Catholic theologian, Bill Huebsch shares that, “In most of our lives, meals are also memorials.” They are rituals that teach us faith and the importance of family.
Within the home of Paul and Denny, who have opened up their home to others in need, have found that family meals are “a ritual that works unconsciously in people.” Their generosity of spirit is an example of sharing one another’s burdens and joys while breaking bread.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are taught to make our homes a sanctuary against the storms of life. I want all those who enter my home to feel welcomed and nourished by the good word of the Lord and a family meal. I too would like my home to be considered a mikdash méat, or ‘little holy place.’