Changing how and what I eat has brought into stark relief the social importance of eating together. The communal experience is really what eating together is about rather than anything else.

eating-together

image from http://clipart-library.com/circus-clown.html

In many religious groups and societal groups, people eat together, fast together, share food and drink from a single container, eat from communal plates, share the sensual experience of food. Eating together is one way in which we reaffirm social bonds.

So when one person in the group is not playing along the whole dynamic is disrupted.

I saw this last night when out with friends. These are friend with whom I eat often, with whom I discuss food at length. Some of the people in the group are real foodies – two are, in fact, chefs. Some of us are enthusiastic eaters and creative cooks. We had a platter of fried bits and pieces – fish fillets and prawns included. Three weeks ago I would have been all over those prawns but last night I really had no desire. I know they are delicious but I didn’t want one.

 

‘Cummon Kim, just one’

‘You know they are good’

‘Choochoo train’ while pretending to feed it to me like a child

‘Just the one, no one will know’

 

This was all light hearted and not real pressure but it was still there. The undertone was that I was not participating, not part of the shared experience. And that didn’t sit well with my friends who wanted me to be.

I ate some of the coriander garnish off the platter to be at least seen to be participating. (And I love coriander.)

 

Then we had wors rolls and our friend who is the chef at the place had gone and got me some Fry’s sausages. He had also not used butter or ghee to make the relish so I could happily have a roll with a sausage in it like everyone else.

And that meant I was again part of the shared experience.

I was teased a little at eating soy sausages but at least I was there, doing the same thing everyone else was with food that looked the same.

 

On the way home a friend asked me how long I planned to do this for, and why didn’t I just do it when not out and enjoy the food he knows I like when out.

I didn’t feel like this was pressure or anything negative but rather a call to return to the fold, to rejoin the shared experience.

We all eat out together a lot at an establishment said friend owns. Because we are friends with the chefs we get unique and delicious meals made for us. And by changing what I eat I am excluding myself from so many experiences in the future.

 

I’m okay with that because I have never felt better. But I am also a little saddened by it. These are my people, I am their people – and I have excluded myself from the group in such a fundamental way.