The Power of the Meal
Since the beginning of time one aspect of human social experience has stood out as the ‘place to be’ for communication and family bonding: the meal. In contemporary human life the evening dinner is often the only place and time that a family all sits down together. In tribal times (of course there are still tribes today) the cooking of a slaughtered animal or cultivated vegetables brought the group together to share ideas and feelings. Think about it these days; when you want to take someone out for a romantic date, meet business colleagues, get together with old friends and acquaintances, we go out for a bite to eat. What is it about sharing some food that puts us in such a relaxed and communicable state? Could it simply be science, and the fact that if you are tense when you eat, the food doesn’t digest as well? Or, could it have some psychological basis having to do with the idea that you are sharing some life-giving sustenance with your fellow species instead of warring over it? Subconsciously do we recognize the facts that we will be able to live another day as well as sew healthy seeds for future generations?
Think of all the problems in the world today. Maybe if we all got together for a feast we could work out some practical solutions, say while sipping on coconut milk, or chewing on a loaf of bread. The current (14th) Dalai Lama is quoted as having said, “I sometimes think that the act of bringing food is one of the basic roots of all relationships.”
There is also the idea of food as being a medium for the transferal of emotional energy. I am currently living with a friend who is very adept in the kitchen. He uses high quality ingredients and professional techniques, but he also follows the belief that what mood you are in, the amount of effort and awareness you give the cooking process, and the love and gratitude that you feel for the ability to eat is imperative to making a good meal. I have read in a famous Hari Krishna cookbook as well as Taoist teachings how the actual emotions that the cook feels when making a meal is transmitted into the food via chi energy. Feelings and food are both forms of energy. Native Americans believe that all thoughts and emotions are ‘alive’.
You may have seen the recent film, ‘What the bleep do we know?’ Read about it at whatthebleep.com. In this film world-renowned scientists discuss the idea that all thoughts and emotions are actually physically material in the sense that they are produced by chemicals and are transmitted in electrical forms. Therefore, a happy chef truly spreads happiness by enjoying the preparation of a meal.
So, next time you sit down to a meal with friends or family, or cook for guests, remember the significance of this often undervalued experience. For hundreds of thousands of years our distant relatives’ whole way of social life was based around the acquisition and sharing of food. It is often the main time to communicate to the ones you hold most dearly, so please don’t take it for granted or think that just because it is necessary for survival that there aren’t any meaningful and mysterious aspects to the experience. Relating to each other is one of the most important elements in a social creature’s existence; the meal is a time and place for relationships to sprout and grow. That’s just some of the power of the meal.