Food fills our stomachs and our souls. It doesn’t have to be much but the connection that happens around a table is sacred. This is especially so when we step out of culinary comfort zones.
A few weeks ago, a friend invited me to her home for a graduation party. She happened to mention that they would also be having a crawfish boil. Having never even heard of such a thing until a few years ago, I was intrigued. This Great Lakes raised girl has a taste for seafood but crawfish have never touched my lips. In addition, I have never traveled to the southern states. Much of our culinary experiences are tied to the cultural narratives that are written as we gather around the table.
I have to confess that the idea of eating something that had been living only a half hour before was hard to digest. But, I do eat meat and I have strived to acknowledge what that means. How does my theology inform my diet? How do I live in the wrestling of caring for creation while also giving thanks for that which is provided locally for food? Having a daughter in culinary school and engaging in some of the conversations around her assignments has opened up paths for reflecting on cultural impact on diet. I’ve been challenged to pause, when tempted to say, “That’s disgusting!” Instead, I think about how my biases may be informing my views of stewardship.
Back to the party. I first heard about crawfish boils a few years ago. After a few references, I became curious but they are not a common event in Illinois. However, my friend’s husband’s roots in geography and culinary preferences originate in Louisiana. Sharing those literal life shaping experiences around the table with others is love. So I felt honored to be invited. The presentation amazed me. A beautiful, colorful bounty of corn, crawfish, mushrooms, and potatoes spread across a table. And everyone feasting from the same “plate.” After the gracious offer of having it peeled for me, I tasted the crawfish. A bit fishy tasting but that’s coming from someone whose tastes have not been raised on it. The mushrooms and potatoes though? I confess to eating more than my share.
The three framed photos in my hallway give a glimpse of my narrative. As I trek through my daily routine collecting laundry, making trips to the bathroom, and various other tasks, the lighthouses beckon my attention. A friend took the photos of the three lighthouses several years ago. As a fellow Michigander, he understood the beauty, history, and geographical relevance they represent.
Growing up in southwest Michigan, the lakes contribute to the economy through business and pleasure. My fondest memories include weekend afternoons with family playing at the beach-a quick half hour drive to relish in hours of sand castle building and seeking refreshment as the warm waves wash over the skin. The beach provided hours of free entertainment.
Transplanted in Illinois as a college student and now a resident, I crave the Michigan beaches. Perhaps the familiarity is part of it, but they offer a haven away from the noise and stress of “life.” When summer arrives, my heart jumps. The hour and 15 minute drive to my happy places provides an opportunity to be serenaded by the calm, lulling, rhythm of the waves serenading my sun bath. I find joy in escaping into the pages of a book. Yet, as an extrovert, I can simultaneously enjoy the colorful landscape of beach towels and human interaction around me.
When observing a narrative different from ours, the knee jerk reactions come quickly. I can’t believe she let her kids…. I would never eat….. That’s dangerous! They don’t care about… I can’t believe they find that entertaining… That’s irresponsible What a waste of money Don’t they know……..?
But if we were privy to more than a glimpse of someone’s life, we would learn more. I shutter to think what could be assumed about mine. A snapshot is just that. It captures a millisecond. A social media video does not offer too much more.
We see things through the lens of our story. But, at some point, we need to expand our lens. It requires humility. Maybe the lens informing my life doesn’t give me the bigger picture. How might that impact how I view my American neighbors? How might that influence the ways I show that I love them?
This Wednesday, I am launching a movement to learn from our American neighbors. How can we love our neighbors as ourselves if we don’t see our neighbors as ourselves? (For more background on my movement, read this:https://stephaniejthompson.com/2019/05/25/why-sharing-our-cultures-helps-us-know-our-collective-story/
Join me on my virtual front porch (my blog) this Wednesday night for the beginning of conversations to help us build relationship and understanding of our different landscapes. Each week will feature a simple question that will serve as a prompt for a post.
Are you coming over?