I was in Paris, living with a bunch of twenty-something year old girls I had just met. My weekdays were consumed by navigating the subway system to make it to all my classes on time. Our dormitory was filled with students from Italy, Argentina and a few from Belgium. Monday through Friday everyone was busy with school. When Friday afternoon arrived the students (besides us—‘the Canadians’) were coming back to the dorms each carrying a bag of groceries.
It was customary for each of the students to stop by the market and pick up fresh food for the evening dinner. Each floor had its own tiny kitchenette, and I mean tiny. Everyone worked collectively making dishes to be shared for dinner that evening. Before long a makeshift table was centered with a bouquet of flowers, a few bottles of wine, baguettes and cheese to start.
The whole process of gathering, making meals together, conversing about your day, laughing, expressing joy was coming out of these tiny kitchenettes. This would happen every weekend evening.
Soon enough we (the Canadians) too started to make our way into these tiny kitchenettes, and began participating with weekend meal parties. In February I was turning 21 years old, and guess what happened? My Canadian friends along with my new International friends all prepared a huge meal for my birthday. It was something I will never forget because of the love, thoughtfulness, and time that was put into making my birthday dinner come to life.
What I learned very early on during this memorable trip was the importance of socialization through food. I carried this concept in my heart where it lay dormant until the age of twenty-five. I was living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, when I decided to invite my whole class over for a birthday dinner. Yup, my whole class! I remember that day like it was yesterday. The meal was simple and wholesome. It embodied everything that is important, which was great friends, good food, fine music and most of all the creation of fond memories.
My travels would eventually lead me to Chicago; and regardless of the tight budget we were on I would still make dinners for our extended family. However, as time passed I felt my energy and enjoyment for making food slip away. It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that my spark for healthy, easy and delicious food was ignited again.
Regardless of the city you are living in, or how much money you are making, each of us has the ability to slow down, and to actually feel our heart beating. In a society that is often characterized by rushing from one event to the next, and constantly on the move; it’s time to bring it back to the kitchen, or your place of gathering, because your heart yearns for this connection, and for the food that is made by your hands.
The first and likely the most important lesson I learned from my Paris trip wasn’t what landmarks, or works of art I needed to see, but the social nature of humanity and how important food and drink can be in bringing people together in creating the memories which are the very fiber of our being. While I hope to bring to light the opportunities to do and to experience life at its fullest in our everyday; the first rule always has been and will forever be to slow down and enjoy a meal with those special people in our lives.