The Joys of Communal Eating

Jul 6th, 2014 | By | Category: Blog

As I read today’s blog prompt, I realized that my last post about dinner at Claude’s house nicely answers this prompt as well last week’s. I think that goes to show the consistent themes among Berry’s writings from section to section and time period to time period as well as the importance of preparing and/or eating food with others.

The example which I’ll describe in this post has many similarities to that of the dinner at Claude’s house, and is equally as memorable of an event. In the fall, I was living abroad in a small ecovillage in Findhorn, Scotland. Similarly to a college campus, there was a dining hall (otherwise known as the community center) where community members would prepare lunch and dinner each day. No one was required to attend meals, but many people did, and Sunday brunch was particularly popular. As an assignment for one of my classes, I, as well as 3 other students, decided to prepare brunch from all local ingredients. It was definitely challenging – Scotland is not the most lush place in November. Unfortunately, we were unable to prepare the whole meal from local ingredients, but we made an egg, vegetable, and cheese casserole of sorts as well as a delicious blackberry-apple crumble (with Scottish oats and honey). My friends and I picked blackberries until we had splinters and our hands were stained bright red so that we would have enough to feed around 120 people. The apples came from the trees planted many years ago all around the community. We got leeks and some other vegetables from the community farm and we even bought rapeseed oil, which is grown in Scotland, to grease the pans. It was a hectic time in the kitchen, but everything was completed by 11:00 am on that Sunday, just in time to bring out to the crowd of people anxiously awaiting their Sunday morning brunch fix.

My peers and I described our project and then observed as people read our signs which explained the origins of the food and as they took their first bites into the eggs and crumble. Many people complimented us on the food afterwards, and although I was relieved that the stress and planning was over, I felt that people appreciated not only the food, but the intention and efforts behind it. All aspects of this communal meal made it unique for me – gathering ingredients, cooking (although I learned that the expression “too many cooks in the kitchen” does truly have a practical meaning), displaying/serving, and eating. The communal setting allowed for a more direct communication and a more memorable meal.

One Comment to “The Joys of Communal Eating”

  1. Benjamin Harris says:

    Hey Abby,

    The food that you made sounds delicious and I found that many aspects that you described about the meal resonated with me. It’s funny that people seem to find that a local meal tastes “better”–it’s almost a kind of placebo effect, as if knowledge that the ingredients source from close to home makes them closer to heart. My internship also has reinforced this phenomenon because I’ve interacted with many educators, school cafeteria staff, and parents who remark that children always love whatever food they prepare–even if in truth, it tastes terrible. I think that since your meal, and farm-to-table restaurants as a whole, seem to be successful, the localvore movement could take advantage of this “mental advantage” that it has over anonymous, mass-produced food. Maybe it could be a key to spreading local eating to a national scale. I also appreciated your comment about “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Local meals may be hectic because they require extra preparation, but they also create more camaraderie by bringing so many cooks together. The more, the merrier?

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