Service to Table
Happy Labor Day All!
I hope you are enjoying this day. Today I am thinking about the service of food. Many of us in the United States get together on this day to share food and celebrate on Labor Day. For some that’s a barbeque, perhaps a potluck or dish to share gathering, and for others it may be a picnic or an afternoon out with friends. Wherever this finds you today, I hope you get the opportunity to participate in the service of some delicious food!
Food. Service. The Service of Food.
It’s delicious, it’s satiating, it’s community, it’s family. It’s loving preparation can be an act of service unlike any other.
I have loved the art and grace of food as long as I can remember. When I was no taller than the counter top, my grandmother, Dee Dee, would pull up a chair, wrap me in a ruffled apron and let me slowly add two tablespoons of iced water to her infamous pie dough. After placing the crosshatch pattern over sweetened peaches or carefully sculpting the meringue over creamy chocolate filling, covered in flour and brimming with pride, I was hooked.
Since those days, I have not only grown several feet, but have spent countless hours in kitchens near and far. I have worked the line in a restaurant, catered privately and with companies and perpetually tinker with recipes in my own kitchen. When I lived in Banda, Aceh Indonesia I got to work with several Acehnese to design the menu, train the cooks and build a café to serve the community. I learned their recipes and they learned mine. We laughed and annoyed each other, just like any other kitchen I’d ever worked in. When I lived in DC, I got to learn from a chef at an international retreat center that served dignitaries and diplomats. We made everything from intricate five-course dinners to late night peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a guest who found them, ‘just delightful.’ When I lived in Uganda, I got to start a garden program at a girls’ leadership academy, where we focused on rounding out a diet of staples like matoke and porridge with greens, peas and vibrant, tropical nutrient-dense fruits. Sowing those seeds and saplings was hard and utterly satisfying work that we did together, to grow the food that would sustain and embolden.
Recently, I was invited to a farm dinner at Ollin Farms in Longmont, CO, and was delighted to share a meal of freshly harvested produce straight from the family run, community driven farm. A three-fold mission guides the farm:
- To handcraft nutrient dense, full flavored vegetables that support a healthy and vibrant local food economy.
- To conduct research and create systems for promoting resilient farm ecosystems, starting with the biological life in the soil.
- To provide education about healthy gardening, eating and lifestyle choices that strengthen community.
I have had the tremendous opportunity to share food with families and communities all across the globe. Cross-legged on the floor, at long mahogany tables, under the stars, on the beach, in a boat, around a tree, in a classroom or on a farm – wherever it is, the service of food can be utterly gratifying. Growing, harvesting, preparing, sharing and serving food is a life-giving practice that I fear many of us have gotten too busy and distracted to honor and to cultivate in our own lives.
For those of us with access and capacity to grow, buy or some combination, creating and serving meals to nourish ourselves, our family and our community may be just what is needed to bring us together.