The world’s largest religion began with a meal. There was a large enough room for the people invited. There was a jug of water. There were bowls and loaves of bread and cups and vessels of wine. There were prayers and speeches; there was a song and an argument. The night before he was killed, Jesus ate supper with his friends. One might argue that there was born a sacrament so central to Christianity, that the Church itself was born that night. The Eucharist, many Christians believe, reenacts both that meal and the sacrifice Jesus made on humankind’s behalf—offering forgiveness and collapsing the divide between God and humanity. For Christians, during communion, all distances are crossed, all boundaries blurred. Life unites with death; spirit with body; meaning with fact; the profane with the sacred; the host with the guest. But also, as perhaps non-Christians more likely observe, the ritual is simply bread and wine. There might be a tablecloth or a candle, there might be a prayer, but the bread comes from the same place as does our morning toast, baked by the same young baker who works at the bakery down the street….
The approach we take to feeding one another in our individual homes, the manner in which we gather around the table, the unspoken dividing and sharing of responsibilities, the inarticulate daily habits, are all bound by ritual and rich with ceremony. Like religious practices, these details reveal hidden graces and express our repeating and consistent gratitude. They can reflect the general peace of a household, or be the cause of divide and discord. These “ways of doing things” are not without controversy because they are specific and savory. Just like religious sacraments, their power to include, to ground and form our identities, to draw an imaginary line around our households, is as profound as their power to exclude. In our house, we are unified by the way we give and receive acts of comfort, the timings of our comings and goings, the type of milk we buy, the type of cereal. At their most basic, these housekeeping details are a simple system of kindnesses holding together the fabric of our families. At their most complicated, they are an intricate web of histories and beliefs, as paradoxical and tangled and esoteric as any religion. To grow bored of our tables and foods, therefore, would not only be sad and unhealthy, it would be, in every sense of the word, irreverent.
–Nikaela Marie Peters in Kinfolk