In Defense of the Family Meal: Karen Baldwin and the Gift of Food

March 26, 2011


A family meal is about a whole lot more than just eating food. (cc image courtesy of ednl via Flickr)

In “The Gift of Food” (from Ransom Fellowship) Karen Baldwin reflects on the meaning of a meal in our high-speed culture. For Baldwin the table is the “family center” and to lose touch with that fact is to “lose touch with something of our humanity.”

Baldwin writes:

We have come to believe that there is infinite value in moving quickly through every task with as little effort and time as we possibly can. We have one-stop supermarkets; internet/online bill payments; drive through everything-under-the-sun. Meal time, too, has become for many just one more thing to get through with as little trouble as possible; another task in an already hectic life. … But when mealtime becomes a throw-away experience, we lose touch with a whole host of meaningful encounters that seem at first to have little to do with the basic act of eating.

What are those “meaningful encounters” that get left behind? An appreciation of the care went into producing the food, for one thing, but also the subtle pleasures of the table, unhurried time to enjoy and connect with people. To Baldwin, however, the chief thing that is lost when mealtime becomes a “throw-away experience” is the simple fact that food ought to be a gift. She writes:

Preparing food can and should be looked at as a gift we can give to others. God made us to need food and need it several times each and every day. And if you think about it, not only has he given us the ability to taste different flavors but he has created for us a countless variety of foods to eat and enjoy. What a gift. He also made us for fellowship; made us connoisseurs of one another, enjoying one another’s gifts, cultures, facial expressions. All this requires intentionality. It takes care and thought to feed others, it takes interest and time to pursue relationships. Read the rest of “The Gift of Food.”

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