Have you sat down to share a meal with a friend recently? Did you feel like you were able to pick up right where you left off? Or was it the first time, yet you were able to form a connection quickly? In college at TCU, my Food & Culture Professor Dr. Vanbeber, continuously expressed the importance of ‘breaking bread’ with others. She talked about how sharing meals with others is something we should do often as it raises our dopamine levels due to the social interactions, and it creates a comfortable setting to learn about the people you are sitting around the table with. It has been said that sharing a meal with someone is sharing their culture.
Since I have been in Ireland, I’ve been able to share meals with people and cultures that I would have never dreamt of. Recently I’ve been able to share meals with Vinay from Ernakulam, India, Val from Mâcon, France, Tom from Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, Erin from Toronto, Canada, and Alex from Hamburg, Germany to name a few. The cities and countries matter as I’m fascinated by geography and I’d known only a few people that were from outside of the USA prior to living in Ireland.
Offering food, regardless of what it is, to a friend or stranger is a part of elementary hospitality in most cultures. I’ve been able to experience this first hand and see the simple connection be transformed into a deeper friendship. My Chinese classmate, Leo, always offers me cookies that he brings to class. My Canadian friend, Erin, went home for the holidays and brought back ‘Canadian treats’ to give to me. They are these maple leaf-shaped maple sugar cubes that melt in your mouth and taste like pure goodness. Yes, one is melting in my mouth right now as I write this blog.
This past week, my friends Tom and Val were so kind to invite me into their home to have a raclette dinner, which was something that I’d never had or even heard of before. Raclette is a cheese from the Alps region that is apart of French and Swiss food culture. Raclette is prepared by slicing the cheese into small squares and placing in a melting grill or over an open flame and then placing the melted cheese onto the vegetables and meats of your choosing.
Also a few weeks ago, my friend Alex welcomed me into his home to share a proper German Christmas dinner. We ate schweinebraten (pork roast), potato salad, green salad, and leberkäse (German meatloaf). This was a once in a lifetime experience and his Mom even sat down to personally talk to me about how she loved living in the US in her early 20s. She said that the American people were so kind to her and so when her son asked if I could come for dinner, she was happy to do the same for me. You’ve got a place to eat all the American processed food you want in the US, Alex.
I’ve witnessed my parents welcome and host countless friends into their home and it’s grown on me and made me appreciate how I love hosting, but also made me grateful to those who host me. In 2019, I want to share meals with friends more often, as well as offer food to others to endure a feeling of hospitality and friendship with my new classmates and friends here in Ireland.
I’d love to show my friends here how we eat for a day at the lake in Nebraska. Burgers, bratwurst, and hot dogs on the grill and dips. I mean we love our dips - seven layer dip, corn salsa dip, sassy salsa dip, and queso dip (with Velveeta and Rotel of course) to name a few. While we drink our small 12 ounce Coors Lights. I say small because what we in America call a ‘tallboy’ is the standard serving size of a canned beer in Europe. Oh, or to eat chili and cinnamon rolls on a cold day in Colorado or even to eat the best BBQ in Texas.
When you move away from home and outside of your comfort zone, you learn that food is one those things that really give you a sense of comfort. Jif Peanut Butter is one of those comfort foods for me. However, I’m loving the ability to learn about food and culture by sharing meals like raclette and experiencing a proper German dinner with new friends. Wherever you live or are from, we can all share more meals or cook for others and enjoy the happiness and connections that come with food. Join me in sharing a meal or cooking for someone this week.