Red wine decanted by candlelight, an eggshell filled with cold asparagus soup in a tiny terracotta pot sipped across from a woman with dark hair. Some people live to eat, others eat to live but I must do both.
That was Fleur de Lys in San Francisco. And I remember La Cote Basque, where each person had a role and a uniform. Dining was liturgy. When one course was done, plates and cutlery were taken and replaced. I understood my love of dining when I saw the Eucharist
The Eucharist remembers a meal. In Scotland this February I saw some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches.
In London last summer, I saw Caravaggio’s portrayal of Emmaus.
The Last Supper wasn’t, it was the first and Emmaus the second. Communion is a connection at X and Y and Z; X with each other, Y with God, and Z with the world.
At Emmaus, at the breaking of the bread the disciples realize they’ve been eating with the risen Jesus. Eating with family, with strangers, or alone is about relationship. One can cure hunger with a Whopper. But connecting with God and our neighbor requires a meal.
Nobody eats alone. MFK Fisher wrote about the rich Roman Lucullus who tried. Even alone, one must acknowledge the source, the preparation, and the ritual, like the man who eats an avocado with sugar.
“Very clear in my memory is the expression on the old man’s face. He was at peace, and aware—aware that Lucullus dined with Lucullus for a reason.”
I need the fellowship and ritual of eating, whether by myself in a crowd, or in a crowd by myself. When we eat and drink together, the intimacy of survival connects with the choice to love one another, even when we do it alone.