On Thursday, hundreds of millions of Americans will gather to celebrate Thanksgiving–a day devoted to exuding gratitude and consuming food. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, about 39 million families will travel to have Thanksgiving dinners where an average of $54.18 will be spent on the meal and 51 million turkeys will be consumed. In some ways, this is apropos since the first Thanksgiving consisted of a three-day feast.
But according to Shauna Niequist, this secular holiday may be more sacred than we assume. Her most recent book, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, explores the surprising and sacred things that happen around the dinner table. She sprinkles creative recipes throughout, encouraging readers to test her concepts with friends and family. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a reluctant meal-preparer, Niequest’s insights will draw you into the mysterious gift of sharing food with those you love. This Thanksgiving, I decided to talk to Shauna about the “meaning of eating” and the little known connection between food and faith.
JM: Well, Shauna, we’re approaching another Thanksgiving–an occasion for feasting that Americans have celebrated for decades. Is what happens at folks’ tables today different than a half-century or century ago? What’s different now?
SN: People used to spend more time at the table. And people used to have more time to spend. We’ve moved from the table to the car, many of us, and our current food culture is giving us more and more opportunities to do that: more drive thrus, more curbside delivery, more pre-packaged and pre-prepared options.
If your life is anything like mine, if we’re not careful, most of our relational connections take place either online, via text, or in a hurry—saying “hello” on the way in to church or preschool pick-up, or in and out of meetings, or on the way to somewhere else.
The table is important because the table is the place where time stops, if we choose for that to be true, if we build and adhere to that pattern. The table is where we can carve out sacred space to look people in the eye, to hear the whole story, not just the text-able sound byte.