_ The following is a guest post from a member of my congregation, Natalie McLaury. Natalie is a renowned food blogger (The Sweets Life). I asked her to consider food and relationships. Read and consider what food does for your family. For your congregation. For the mission of the church.
You can’t really tell your pastor “no” when he asks you to guest blog, can you? I didn’t think so. Thankfully, he asked me to write on a topic I can’t really get enough of: food. More specifically, how it is that food fosters relationships.
Whether I realized it or not, I have been witnessing relationships fostered by food my whole life. For the first twenty-two years of my life, this was something I partook in as a willing participant and spectator. Sitting down to Christmas dinner with my extended family, lovingly prepared by my grandma. Eating a warm meal around a campfire, prepared by guides, after twelve hours of climbing through the mountains of Colorado. Filling up a tray with the dish of the day in the Truman State University dining hall before sitting down to a leisurely dinner full of chatter with friends. Making a stop at the Dairy Queen drive through window with my dad after a winning soccer game.
Food inevitably connects people, because everyone needs food.
After twenty-two years of connecting with people over food prepared by others, everything changed. My increased interest in food sprung from a relationship—that with my new husband. With a mouth to feed other than my own, my entire outlook on food shifted and I tapped an undiscovered passion: connecting with others through food prepared by me.
That was over three years ago. In those three years, I’ve started a blog. I’ve posted over 800 recipes on that blog. I won a recipe contest that took me to San Francisco, where I met other food bloggers just as passionate about food and cooking as I am. I’ve hosted friends for countless meals, supplied post-church refreshments more times than I can count, and even thrown a party featuring twelve kinds of cheesecake!
What have I learned? I’ll say it again: food inevitably connects people, because everyone needs food.
My college-aged brother, who I don’t see or talk to as often as I’d like, knows I’m thinking about him when that fresh batch of cookies arrives at his dorm. Our common denominator is food.
A reader emails me a question and shares a story about how she relates with something I mentioned on the blog. I am suddenly making personal connections with someone I only know by name. Our common denominator is food.
A distant great-uncle shares his favorite recipes with me and reads every word of my email in which I recount a great meal I recently had. Our common denominator is food.
A friend becomes a best friend when we bond in the kitchen, making huge messes and creating delicious meals. Our common denominator is food.
I sit at a table with my husband’s family, sharing stories and creating memories while feasting on homemade pie and ice cream, prepared by me. Our common denominator is food.
My life has infinitely richened since I started proactively using food as a way to reach out to others—first my brand new husband and now, quite literally, thousands of people around the world.
Don’t get me wrong—cooking night after night, writing blog post after blog post is not a requirement to foster relationships through food. It’s the road I’ve been led on, but isn’t most likely yours. Find other ways to reach that common denominator of food with others. Invite a friend to grab sushi with you. Pick up a brownie mix and bring in a treat for your coworkers. Call your mom when you see a recipe for macaroni and cheese that reminds you of your favorite childhood meal.
Food inevitably connects people, because everyone needs food. How can you use food to connect?