I take a deep breath and pick up the phone. People on Facebook are always explaining what they eat, so
“Hey, I’m having bratwurst,” I tell an acquaintance.
“Okay,” he says.
“I just thought you should know,” I awkwardly explain.
“Is this a confession?” he asks.
“Well, eat without guilt. You could die tomorrow.”
“Have fun with your bratwurst. Okay, that didn’t come out right. Enjoy your brawts.”
Minutes later I call up Quinn the Business Bohemian. I stall for a moment when I hear the answering message about travelling to Europe. “Hey Quinn, I just thought I would update you on my status. I’m eating bratwurst and chips for dinner. Not sure how that fits into the food pyramid. So, yeah, just thought you should know.”
Finally I call my brother-in-law and recognize what’s missing. I don’t practice random hospitality. I feel this obsessive need to show that I have it all together before someone visits the house. However, with David I go an alternative route. “I have tons of bratwurst and I’m bored. Want to come over?”
I call Quinn the Business Bohemian and explain, “Just thought I would update you on my status. I know you’re out of town, but I thought you should know what I’m eating. I made this random soup from the leftover roast. It has carrots and tomatoes and black beans and onions. Pretty much any random item in the fridge. I might at some rice to it. Oh, and I added spices.”
An hour later, I tell the neighbors, “I made a soup from the roast.”
“Sounds tasty,” she says.
“It turned out pretty good. I just tossed in a bunch of random things.”
“Like a garbage stew?”
“I wouldn’t call it garbage, but that’s the idea,” I tell her.
“I’d love to try a bite,” she says.
So, I give her a bowl and she gushes about how great it is. This beats
It’s chicken nuggets and steamed vegetables. I’m so badly wishing it was meatloaf so that I could at least crack a joke about eighties power ballads.
“Just calling to tell you my status. I’m feeding my kids some chicken nuggets,” I tell a friend.
“Are they home-made?” he asks.
“No, they’re warmed up in the microwave.”
“Sometimes you run out of time and you just have to go with stuff from a package.”
“Crazy thing is they’ll like this better than if I made a casserole.”
I explain to a former co-worker, “Status update. I’m eating a stew.”
“You sound pretty normal for having food in your mouth.”
“Well, it’s not in right now.”
“What kind of stew is it?”
“It’s actually a goulage, which I think is a fancy word for soup. I’m not sure how it’s spelled, though. It can’t be gulag. That’s a Russian prison camp.”
“Well, have a nice day,” he tells me.
I tell Javi the Hippie about my dinner. He tells me that Boston Market once gave him the runs for a week. This forces me to give him a private message that he just ruined my dinner. I suggest, however, that he should have the roast I just made. We end up deciding on sharing a pint.
* * *
My friend Brad the Philosopher runs a hospitality house with his wife. He once described the loneliness that soldiers face and by the end of his description, I was in tears. He said that we’re dying for tangible community. It’s why we need to eat after a funeral and why Jesus shared a meal in his last hours with his friends. When I was in college Brad and Debbie used to have college students over for dinner every night. I never felt closer to a community than in those times and the food was a major contributor.
I once mocked people who give meal-based Facebook status. And maybe there’s reason for the mockery. However, I’m recognizing that there is something profound in the simple act of breaking bread (it’s why I’m opposed to sliced bread). Perhaps we update people with what we’re eating, because on a more visceral level, we want to share a meal.