Guest Blog Post-The Simple Grace of Sharing a Meal

PUBLISHED ON: 11.06.2009

My husband and I are headed to New York City this weekend to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We are planning to explore the local neighborhoods and enjoy the sights, sounds and food of New York City. Christine from Fresh, Local and Best has armed us with some wonderful local food establishments to visit.  This would include, the Chelsea Market, which she tells us is where the Food Network tapes most of their shows, such as the Iron Chef.  We are also planning to visit The Green Table, Amy’s Bread Making, Burdick Chocolate, Bouchon Bakery and Ippudo NY for Asian noodles and pork buns! Thank you Christine! We are going to experience all your recommendations.

While away, I have asked Lin from The Absence of Alternatives to be a guest blogger. She has graciously agreed.  She is funny and honest and has a very interesting perspective on life that is contagious.  I have no doubt that you will enjoy her blog post. Please take the time to visit her blog at  I can promise that you will not be disappointed.

The Simple Grace of Sharing a Meal
Velva has kindly invited me to be a guest blogger here. I am honored to be part of this wonderful place, her private heaven that she so selflessly shares with us. There are many blogs out there that celebrate the art of cooking. What drew me to Velva’s and soon made me a fan, is her belief in and her unabashed celebration of eating as a ritual through which we become closer with each other.
I was struck the first time I read it on the banner  “sustaining our bonds with one another through the simple grace of sharing a meal” Could this Southern belle be Chinese?
I thought, because that is the Chinese attitude towards food. Well, we don’t really put it in words so poetic. We say cryptic things like “A person is as important as the Emperor when s/he  is sitting down for a meal” THAT is also the attitude towards meals many cultures hold: the French, the Itailian, the Spanish, and so on.
When a friend of mine lamented about a girlfriend’s betrayal by invoking this “rule” literally, in her litany, “But she has come to dinner with me and my mother. SHE BROKE WITH US!”,  I learned that in some socio/cultural circles, sharing a meal, “breaking bread”, has an even deeper symbolic meaning: you have come to my house to share a meal with my family. By this act, we mutually agree, implicitly, that we are now friends. You are now accepted into the “circle of trust”.
The simple joy of enjoying great food and great friends. The ritual. The community. The circle of trust. These are things that I have not been able to recreate in the suburban Midwest. No. There is no Joy Luck  Club in our lfe.
I agonized over what I could possibly contribute to Velva’s foodblog. I cannot cook. I have two left hands which render my dexterity to Zero. (Think: sewing, knitting, soap carving, video games, Voguing). I feed my children boxed Macaroni and Cheese, and all sorts of processeed, frozen food. I eat instant noodles from a pot over the kitchen sink on some nights. As a feast, I treat myself by using a proper bowl, and drink a glass of vodka and cranberry juice.
I know. I am an abomination of a Chinese woman. I let the 5000 years of historical grandeur down.
I don’t even try any more: I stress out over the sheer number of foods my children will not touch. My 6 year-old will basically only eat food that is white: white bread, plain pasta, white rice, white pizza. Nothing can touch each other. (He did ask me to include the fact that he LOVES broccoli. “So the other mothers will be jealous of you” Steamed for 6 minutes. No more, no less). My husband, though he would certainly deny this vehemently, holds a puritanical attitude towards eating: I Hunger, I eat. I leave. Or is that Roman actually?
Once I spent 3 hours making a special dish, from scratch. After he finished the meal, my husband said,  “It is very good” . “But I probably don’t need to have it again”.
When we visited my family, the irony in my life was further magnified since my brother and his son are both accomplished chefs in Japanese cuisine. As plates, after plates, of skillfully made and artfully arranaged dishes were presented to my “American family”, I gave my boys THE death stare to make sure they keep their polite expressions on. They would end up eating only the white rice and horrifying my brother or nephew and his entire staff. I would end up eating 99% of the food. Going home is VERY TRAUMATIC to my waistline, let me just put it this way….
I dug through the pictures of my trip back home this March and realized: My poor kids! In two weeks they were dragged to Japanese restaurants four times!  Instead of eating the food, they pose for their pictures to be taken with the food. That itself has become a ritual.
“Take a picture of the boys with this before YOU eat it!

There are also tons and tons of pictures of them goofing off with their uncles and aunts, their cousins, and their maternal granparents. Even the chefs and the wait staff.

Perhaps, the point is not how delicious the food is. Perhaps the point is  “It’s the people, stupid”
“Through the simple grace of sharing a meal” Ms. Velva, I salute you. With that big barrel of sake.

  • Lovely post. Happy Anniversary Velva!Mimi

  • fantastic post! loved the pictures!

  • Oh how cool ! Great time to be visiting here as NYC is glowing with the Yankees victory :)…Hope you have a wonderful and safe time… Velva…you will LOVE the chelsea market !

  • Lin, thank you for sharing your perspective (and the fun pictures) with us. One of the nice things about putting a group of disparate people to engage in the \”simple grace of sharing a meal\” is that everyone can contribute something (even the kids). Someone can be the foodie; someone can make a lovely table (that would not be me); someone can provide the conversational thread that pulls everyone together. I made chicken with cranberry sauce the other night (my first foray at Both kids turned up their noses but having worked relatively hard at this meal I insisted they try it and the verdict: \”not bad\”! Relatively high praise from the 13 year old who wanted a french bread pizza and the 10 year old who wanted Ramen noodles. Simple grace enough for me!

  • Oh that was a funny guest post from Lin.I hope you had a wonderful Anniversary Velva!xoxo

  • Velva, dear, safe and happy journey and many more happy anniversaries.Lin, your post was hilarious to me. I could so relate to many things you said.

  • Velva – Happy, happy anniversary! Hope you have a wonderful time and I can't wait to hear about your eating adventures!Lin – so glad to see you here! Guest posting, at that. I feel like I know someone famous now! I'm all tingly! And per usual, great post! I love your sense of humor and your take on life.

  • HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, and enjoy your stay in NY!

  • Congratulations on your anniversary! Enjoy your stay in NYC!!!

  • Happy anniversary! I'm glad that the information was helpful! Lin, your are HILARIOUS, and I can tell you're successfully fostering a similar candid humor among your children!

  • There is an art to pouring the perfect cocktail as well as preparing a delicious meal. I focus on honing my cocktail skills! Cheers!

  • Happy anniversary! I am sure you'll have an amazing time.I liked this post. It made me thing a lot about what really matters when inviting somebody over to have lunch/dinner.

  • HAPPY ANNIVERSARY VELVA! HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!Awwww, the kids looks soo adorable! Super cute! I hope you have an amazing time.

  • What a fabulous guest post 😀 I love every minute of it…such insight from a \”different\” perspective (than mine, LOL)…yet what lies beneath is very much the same. Huh. Very eloquently written :DHappy Anniversary Velva!

  • You were armed with good advice. I alughed about food \”not touching.\” My daughter has never allowed food to touch – unless it is supposed to touch.

  • Thanks y'all for the support. I am glad you liked it, and I hope I did Velva's blog justice to some extent. I was really worried esp. since she has a lot of loyal readers, myself included. To celebrate, I will now go eat some Ramen noodle, in a bowl. (Not kidding you!)

  • Congratulations!! that's quite a feast too!!

  • Happy Anniversary, Velva! Enjoy the big apple!Lin, thanks for the guest post! I had to laugh at the giant sake! And if my hubs said, \”That was good. But I don't think I need to have it again,\” he'd be missing at LEAST one testicle.

  • Those pictures cracked me up. We were all like that with fancy food back in the day weren't we? I just wanted Mcnuggets. Now I want whatever you were having. That looks fun!

  • Enjoyed reading the post! Hope you had a great weekend getaway, happy anniversary!

  • Velva, welcome to the Big Apple. Happy anniversary and happy eating. Check out Joe's Shanghai for fantastic soup dumplings.Lin, lovely post, but I have to side with your kids- sea creatures aren't my thing.

  • Happy Belated Anniversary & wish you many more happy returns! Cheers. Looks like, you guys had a wonderful time. =D

  • Hope you had a great time away. NYC…my dream, along with a mini cooper,$1 million and more but I'm thankful. Welcome back and Happy anniversary.

  • This is one of the most meaningful posts, I have read. You really brought out what is important and what is not. Thanks for writing this. It is my morning inspiration. It should carry me through the day.

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