What Happens When Mouths Meet

I could always tell the extent to which I was into a date, based on my desire to share appetizers.  I don’t think it’s even conscious.  We are either drawn to someone and want to experience arugula together or not.

Sharing food is the most intimate act you can perform with your clothes on.  It’s authentic and primal. No great relationship can ever begin until you’ve taken food from the same dish.

Our very existence has depended on communal food. The mother shares her milk with her baby, the hunter shares his buffalo, the gatherer her gooseberries.  In the past we lived and died by food dependency and communal consumption  – eat the rancid bison and we all perish. We subconsciously know the power of food.

These days though, even when we sit together, we often eat alone. We live a single-sized-serving-microwaveable-entree existence, in a culture of BYO-brown-bag lunches.  We are creatures programmed to share, living in a have-it-your-way world.

The intimacy of Thanksgiving comes not just from the rarity of gathering at one table — napkins on lap, iPhones on vibrate, it comes from the fact that everyone at your table is eating the same food from that same ovenproof dish. The Brussels Sprouts that land on your plate -whether you want them or not- are the genetic clones of the Brussels Sprouts being eaten by your table-mate.  The same DNA, the same nutrients, the same energy that is entering your cells, is entering the cells of all who consume it.  That’s pretty intimate.  Eating identical organic matter creates an enduring cellular connection between people that lasts well after the food’s been digested. It’s the difference between everyone bringing their own turkey to Thanksgiving and carving from the communal bird.

It’s why Potlucks endure, why an apron is sexy, why two people serving themselves out of the same waxy white box of Chinese take-out counts as togetherness, and why when we split the tuna tartar, I know our future is possible.

And it’s why, for one day, every year, we suppress our dietary independence, lay down our menus, and share atoms with the people we love.

What are you sharing this Thanksgiving?

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  • Lisa

    Such beautiful sentiments and so true. Will be thinking of this as I pass the gravy…

  • http://www.cpieces.com Mimi

    I’m sharing great conversations with my family (I started a business that helps with this!). Conversation starters help to keep the talk away from politics, health issues, the economy…

  • http://shoulders-back.blogspot.com/ Isabel

    This is wonderful! Love the thought and will keep it in mind as I share my first real American Thanksgiving, deep-fried turkey and all!

    • Michelle

      Talk about experiencing the “richness” of the America diet! Enjoy.

  • Jiggsy

    In this busy hectic world it is so good to remember that food is more than sustanance but also a necessary resource for connection, community and relationships.

  • jenny

    so lovely and so true. thankFULL for this and all of your words. x

  • debbiejl

    What a lovely post. Its so true! I LOVE eating from someone’s plate. (My husband had to grow used to this idea of “sharing”) Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Good food. Good company of family and friends. No hype. What else do we need. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

  • http://reallyliteral.blogspot.com/ christinachan

    So sweet. I love the ‘iPhone’s on vibrate’ part

  • http://6512andgrowing.wordpress.com/ 6512 and growing

    So beautiful, thank you.
    My family and I are always picking and sharing and grabbing and tasting from each others plates; I don’t always think of it as intimate, but I like that perspective.
    Today we will eat roast elk, backyard-grown winter squash, etc…

  • Alex

    Goat milk cheese popovers for breakfast, turkey sandwiches with cranberry relish and mashed sweet potatoes with carrots for lunch

  • http://forneylife.wordpress.com elizabeth

    Love this. Sharing food is natural and absolutely intimate. I mean, how much do you have to love someone to really want to share tuna tartar…its so tasty!

  • http://www.healingwithin2day.com Joanne

    What a beautiful way to remember what “breaking of bread” with family and friends is really all about. Thanks so much!

  • http://febrilemuse-infectious-disease.blogspot.com CM Doran

    I’ve obviously read this a little late, but love it anyway. I think your thoughts on shared food ties into studies that show that most kids benefit from eating every night [or as much as possible] with their families.

    • Michelle

      Thank you — and I agree with you, there is something deeply emotional about eating food together that goes far beyond simply getting nourishment … we should all do it more…

  • http://limewirefreedown.blogs.experienceproject.com/479934.html joseph


  • Jackie

    I travled to Morocco last summer and one of my favorite customs was eating every meal from a communal bowl. I remember sitting at the dinner table with my host family, eating from a large tagine with our hands (only the right one), and trying to imagine my own family sharing a lasagna in this same fashion. It would never happen.

  • fifty

    Gosh. Any parent of a baby or toddler knows about sharing food. Who has never just eaten up baby’s leftovers because we’re too hungry to make our own food just now, or just too tired to clean up the container or cover and refrigerate it?

  • monzie

    I love this post. (came across your site through Huffington Post)

    This just made me realize how the reason why my family is no longer as close as it used to be is because we no longer have dinner together. Way before my mother’s career took off, she would cook for us and we were all sometimes forced to sit down, television off, and talk during dinner. Those were great times. I love nothing more than eating together with a group of people and I dearly miss this family practice.

    Great job on expressing just how intimate sharing food truly is. I know my favorite friends and closest friends are the one I bond with over food.

  • Wolflieswitch

    Just stumbled upon this and can not applaud enough- well said and beautifully written!  

  • mark1702

    —And completely inappropriate. ! Save ‘intimacy’ for other activities and locales.
    Sharing food is a violation of boundaries.