What is it about sharing a meal that brings us closer together? It’s a question as old as humanity; the sharing of food has always been a part of our human experience, notes this article from National Geographic.
From Qesem Cave near Tel Aviv comes evidence of ancient meals prepared at a 300,000-year-old hearth, the oldest ever found, where diners gathered to eat together. Retrieved from the ashes of Vesuvius: a circular loaf of bread with scoring marks, baked to be divided.
Sharing a meal has the power to unite us through a common experience, through laughter, through the creative act of preparing and serving the food. But there may be something happening on a deeper level.
“I think that food really connects people,” said Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago, quoted in this interview on NPR. “It is about bringing something into the body. And to eat the same food suggests that we are both willing to bring the same thing into our bodies.”
Fishbach and her colleague, Kaitlin Woolley, ran a series of experiments to test this idea; they had participants role-play as a manager and a union rep negotiating an hourly wage. During the negotiations, they were given various foods to eat. What they found was fascinating.
“It took [the participants] 3.6 rounds to reach an agreement when they're both eating sweets,” the article continues. “When one person is eating salty food, like potato chips and pretzels and so on, while the other person is eating sweets, then it takes them on average 7.3 rounds of the game until they finally settle on their hourly wage.”
It wasn’t just eating together or at the same time that mattered, but actually eating the same foods that seemed to spur a sense of working together.
The isolation forced on us during the COVID-19 pandemic was a powerful reminder to never take this for granted. Yet for many adults with disabilities, isolation around food is an everyday challenge.
Sharing mealtimes … and especially eating the same foods … is a great way to build friendship and trust among adults with disabilities. While there are often challenges with dietary restrictions and eating disorders, finding some common ground -- even if it is just one simple dish to share -- is ultimately worth the effort.
And if you’re lucky enough to have a budding chef or two in the house, take advantage of some of these resources to help them explore meal planning, kitchen prep and cooking techniques.
Cooking and sharing food is a true joy, and one of the absolute blessings of being human. When we can turn meal planning, preparation and eating into a shared experience, we create something much greater than a good meal.
“The Joy of Food.” Retrieved from www.nationalgeographic.com on June 15, 2021.
“Why Eating the Same Food Increases People’s Trust and Cooperation.” Retrieved from www.NPR.org on June 15, 2021.