Small Gatherings

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I just bought the Kinfolk book, Recipes for Small Gatherings, and have already spent a chunk of my Saturday morning reading it like a storybook whilst drinking copious amounts of coffee. It really does read like a story, as each contributor is introduced in the context of their own home and way of life, and each dish explained in terms of its meaning for them.

I love what Kinfolk are trying to do in this book and what they stand for in general. They are attempting to cut out some of the superficiality that goes with notions of entertaining, so that instead of folded napkins and designer tableware, the focus is on simplicity, hospitality, personality and companionship. Largely, they achieve this: showing the young Brooklyn couple, the florist, the Englishman and his spaniel and so on. However, I did struggle with the beautifully posed photographs depicting perfect homes and perfect lives. Small, homely gatherings are messier than that!

Lately, we have had people around almost every day, and it is great having the buzz of people coming in and out, being able to talk over dinner, having lots of pairs of hands shoving a mish-mash of items on the table for us all to dig into at lunchtime… This community living feels like it is meant to be. But it does not look like the pictures in the book. It looks just as fun, just as friendly, just as vibrant – but it also shows itself in piles of different people’s notebooks and laptop cables, in mugs and glasses gathering on coffee tables, in piles of washing up and in crumbs on the table.

We are learning (perhaps arguably a little late in life!) the value of washing up dishes straight away and working together to keep things manageable, but we also know that part of sharing our homes and making people feel welcome is about accepting the messiness of life, and prioritising quality time over strenuous cleaning. When I think of the people I know who I consider the most hospitable, and in whose homes I feel most relaxed, they are not necessarily the same people I associate with having pristine houses!

We have been thinking a lot in my work about Jesus’ big and small gatherings – many of which involved food and drink. We’ve been exploring the spiritual and social value of eating together: the fun and laughter it can bring, and the closeness. It’s inspiring to see how Jesus cultivated relationships over food, whether it was breakfast cooked on an open fire on the beach, bread and fish shared among thousands on the hillside, wine and bread at the Passover festival in a quiet room with his friends. What I love is that he also involved others in making these times special, asking his friends to prepare the room, accepting the little boy’s lunch to share with the crowds, and asking the servants to pour the water which would become the best wine at a wedding.

Most mealtimes, we say a short prayer of thanks before eating, and lately, I really mean it. It is such a good thing to have enough to eat and people to enjoy it with 🙂 I hope that one day, everyone in our world will be able to experience the same.

Who do you eat with? How do your mealtimes happen? What do you want to celebrate today?

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