What’s your favorite meal to cook and/or eat?

Throughout the month of January, WordPress is sending participating bloggers a writing prompt each day. It’s a way to find some creative inspiration and perhaps make connections with other bloggers. My entries in this blogging challenge will appear here under the tag #bloganuary.

There are so many meals that I love to eat–my wife’s macaroni and cheese; Indian food from the India Palace restaurant in Lawrence, KS; a burger from the Burger Stand restaurant (also in Lawrence); burnt ends from KC Joe’s in Leawood, KS–I could go on for many paragraphs about the food I love to eat, but it’s difficult to pick just one, because it is different every day. I have many memories of certain meals, in certain locations, featuring certain foods, but I have come to believe that the thing that makes those meals most memorable, and those memories most meaningful are the people with whom I have shared those meals.

So I’ll answer today’s question another way: my favorite meal is almost any meal with beloved friends or family, where there isn’t any rush, and where the combination of people and environment make for leisurely, engaging conversation over good food and drink, whether with just one other person or with a group of people.

I have many great memories of dinners with friends or acquaintances, or in some cases, people I had never met prior to our meal together, not because the food was so sensational (though many times it was), but because I have come to appreciate the way in which sitting with another human being and sharing a meal together can often facilitate connection, friendship, and compassion.

This wasn’t always the case for me. One of my previous jobs required me to travel a great deal, both in the state and across the country, and while business trips and conferences often involve meals with larger groups of colleagues, I often opted to dine alone. A quiet table in a corner somewhere, where I could read, write, do some planning or whatever, was a happy place for me, often a respite from all the people I was typically around on such trips.

But I don’t remember those “dine-alone” occasions nearly as vividly nor as fondly as I do those times when I’ve had long, relaxed meals with my wife, or with our children or extended family (at a favorite restaurant or at home), with dear friends, or with interesting people I’ve only just met. Many of those meals have been on vacation trips or during holiday seasons, but just as many have been in our home, or the homes of friends, on decks or patios, around campfires, or in restaurants around town. Some have been in faraway places–under a cacao tree with a mission team in Haiti, in café bars in Spain with fellow peregrinos on the Camino, or in a rustic cabin in the Spanish Peaks region in Colorado with twenty-five members of my family. More recently there were wonderful holiday meals in our home and in the homes of dear friends. The setting isn’t nearly so important as the other faces around the table, and the topics of conversation, and when all is done, the words of friendship and endearment at the end of the evening, and the embraces (and kisses on the cheek, in the case of our Mexican friends).

You never know when a meal may become one of these special, memorable, experiences, but those things don’t happen unless we create the time and space in our lives for the people we love, or may come to love, because we took the time to slow down and break bread together.

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