It is often said that it is difficult to remain enemies once you’ve had a meal together. This presumes that both parties have a vested interest in reconciling or sorting out any stumbling blocks in the relationship, to either forge a new friendship or recover one that is at risk. The act of sharing food together with someone is about as intimate as it gets, second only to the physical intimacy between lovers.
Sitting together and enjoying food, drink and conversation creates a bond that is very difficult to replicate in other circumstances. Food breaks down barriers of language, religion, ethnicity, politics, gender and a host of other sociocultural factors that too often keep us intellectually and emotionally insulated and isolated.
The ideas that are conceived during a meal by friends and strangers alike, as well as the businesses that are launched (quite literally in some cases, on the back of a napkin) are all too common. Not to mention the interpersonal conflicts that are overcome, the business issues resolved, the national and international geopolitical risks that are mitigated and the greatest challenges facing the human race — all are far more likely to have breakthroughs and resolutions over a meal (or a series of meals) than in a conference room, board room, or even via a Zoom call.
I’m a firm believer in this and have experienced it first-hand on countless occasions in dozens of cities around the world with hundreds of people over the past 20+ years.
It’s a real challenge then, in 2020 during this global pandemic, to imagine the future of breaking bread being as free and ubiquitous as it has been in recent history. The modification of our own behavior — whether social distancing, reduction in frequency of trips, deferment of non-essential travel, curtailing leisure and business travel, as well as the disruption of the normal global supply-chain for every day life, coupled with business closures and extraordinary unemployment around the world means the opportunity and purpose for joining others to break bread have been greatly diminished.
So, with this potential shift in what will now know as “normal” life going forward, breaking bread with others takes on even greater importance in my view. The luxury of choosing to skip the opportunity to see someone and meet with them over a meal, whether in a home, a vehicle or a restaurant is gone — we cannot afford to miss any chance to connect with another and to make the most of that time, do what you can to spend whatever time you have together sharing a meal, at times, even in the literal sense of breaking a loaf of bread in two pieces to give to someone else. You won’t ever regret that and you just might strengthen yourself and another, thereby becoming more resilient, obtaining more empathy and compassion, and strengthening society at a time when it is badly bruised.