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Afternoon in a French Park: Food as Connector

Posted by on Jul 5, 2013 in Blog Posts |

feeding-a-pigeon

At a park a few weeks ago in France, there were three somewhat disheveled older men drinking (alcohol I presume) and sitting on a park bench. The men stared ahead, saying little between swallows.

Meanwhile, my daughter and several other children were gathered around a green hedge a hundred yards away or so. I wandered over to see what they were doing, and noticed they were eating something. Excitedly, M ran to me with a few (rather unripe) raspberries in her hand. The sign on the neatly kept raspberry bushes read, “These are from nature, help yourselves.” I wandered back to my bench, fascinated that the children were glowing, intent on their edible labors, enjoying each other in spite of the language barrier. M brought a few berries to a little boy with a cast and crutches sitting on a teeter-totter watching other children playing. He smiled at her, and they teetered and tottered for a while.

Pretty soon a well-dressed woman came along, greeted the three men on the bench with kisses on both cheeks, as is the custom, and sat. She pulled three small packages from her rather large leather bag (it matched her shoes), and handed a package to each man. They beamed, opening the packages, chatting, smiling and eating. She didn’t drink with them, but ate as well.

Soon, one of the men got up and shared some crumbs with a a few pigeons nearby. He looked down at them, talking tenderly, grinning ear to ear.

On another bench a couple with several children along pulled out little fruit pouches and cookies, sitting together and signing ‘Happy Birthday’ to one of the boys. They laughed, teased, smiled, ate and sang.

It just struck me how much food connects us, how much feeding is an act of reaching out, of giving and sharing, how intimate it is to share the same foods, flavors and experiences. I was so struck by the easy way the woman fed the three men and sat in companionship, and how one of them then found further joy sharing his food, even if it was just with a few pigeons. What need is this to share food with others? Why does this bring joy to both the giver and the receiver?

What do you think? How have you witnessed or been part of food bringing people together, conversely, how has food, or conflicts over food perhaps, affected a relationship in a negative way?

P.S, I’m back from a rather extended family vacation, happy to be home and ready to hit the ground running with work on Monday! Have a wonderful weekend!

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