a table of food and wine

It’s an open secret that as connected as we are through our personal devices and social media outlets, we are an increasingly lonely society. It doesn’t help that our hectic schedules and long workdays make for eating on the go. This sacrifices not only quality meals, but also quality conversation with those closest to us. When we don’t make time for cooking, good food isn’t the only casualty. We miss out on all the conversation and laughter that naturally happen in a busy kitchen and around a table of homemade food.

Focus on building relationships.

Restoring time for community and deepening relationships is as simple as an easy recipe and making a place at your table. The best way to get to know our neighbors, create a safe place for our children or encourage someone going through a difficult time is over a meal in our homes. 

Community thrives around food because while food nourishes our bodies the people gathered around that food nourish each other. How often have you left a meal at someone’s house and thought, I really needed that? You probably weren’t reminiscing about just the Bolognese sauce or mocha torte, but rather the time spent lingering over conversation. It’s the communication and connection we sorely need, perhaps even more than the homemade meal made with nourishing ingredients. 

Keep the cooking simple.

The problem is, of course, we’re busy. Who has time to throw an Instagram-worthy dinner party these days, except perhaps on special occasions? This is why I’m a proponent of getting back to simple meals such as soups with bread, a good cut of meat with grains and vegetables or a nice pasta dish with a simple salad. 

You don’t have to cook with fancy recipes for a meal to taste good. When it comes to taste, making meals with seasonal fruits and vegetables will do most of the heavy lifting for you. A spring English pea, summer tomato, fall Brussels sprouts or winter kale will work wonders in seasonally appropriate recipes. Simple tricks like using fresh herbs, high quality cuts of meat and whole ingredients in your desserts will also go a long way. 

Let go of the need for a picture-perfect table.

One more piece of encouragement—let go of the need to have an immaculate house or perfectly set table. This just makes the rest of us normal people feel inferior, anyhow. If you feel you have to produce magazine-worthy meals and place settings in order to have people over, then you’ll either join the materialism rat race where perfection is the only winner or you’ll shy away from opening your home entirely because you’ve prematurely disqualified yourself.

While the social media age has galvanized our recipe options and hosting presentations, you don’t want it to hold you to an impossible standard. Your community needs you more than they need your most elaborate meal or table décor. 

Your community needs you more than they need your most elaborate meal or table décor. 

The sacred act of having people into your home and sharing a meal together doesn’t have to be an activity for the domestic or epicurean elite. If you’re not sure where to begin, then start with something manageable like a hearty soup or pasta dish. Buy a quality loaf of bread from a local bakery or grocery store, chop some herbs and sprinkle over olive oil with a little salt and pepper for dipping.

Don’t worry about a perfectly put-together table. A minimal place setting with a centerpiece of fresh cut flowers will do the trick. The goal is community, not perfection. When the meals we make are lovingly shared with others at our table, this is when a dish is at its best. When it can look around the room and say to itself, I have arrived

For more of Kelly’s writing, check out her new book, A Place at the Table: Fresh Recipes for Meaningful Gatherings.

How do you build community? Do you believe in the importance of gathering around the table?

Images via Yoni Goldberg, Darling Issue No. 14

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  1. I completely agree with ALL of it and the importance of gathering. My husband I do the same: keep the cooking simple, don’t worry about perfect table settings, and keep the focus on the guests. Something we also like to do to build community is having a pot-luck. We will usually cook the main and have our guests bring whatever they want to share. This makes for great conversations and building relationships. We also like to keep our gatherings casual.

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