It’s been a long time friends. But, I’ve been busy! There have been books and Endow studies and a whole lot of Instagram posts, which are faster and easier to write than blog posts when you only have one free hand and a ginormous toddler sleeping on you. One day, when I have both hands back, I hope to return to writing more in this little corner of the Internet. But, I’m kind of hoping that will be a while! We’re in the process of trying for a second adoption—hopefully a more peaceful process than last time around, but that’s up to God. I did want to pop on here, though, and let my non-Instagram/Facebook followers know about my newest project, an e-cookbook and essay collection, called Around the Catholic Table: 77 Recipes for Easy Hospitality and Everyday Dinners, which I wrote for a very special cause.
This is a story about a table. It begins, in the early years of the twentieth century, when a young immigrant couple from Czechoslovakia bought a home in the Duquesne neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The neighborhood was a bustling one then, filled with Catholics from around the world. For six days, the men worked in the steel mills, and on the seventh, they donned their Sunday best to walk with their families to one of Duquesne’s three Catholic churches.
The young Czechoslovakian couple was no different. Their life revolved around the mill, their parish, and their neighborhood. It also revolved around their boys—all five of them. Early in their marriage, recognizing they’d need some place to feed the growing brood, the couple took more than a few of their pennies out of savings and used them to purchase a dining room set made in Lenoir, North Carolina. On the bottom of the chairs, paper tags proclaimed the date they left the wood shop: March 1916. The dining set was beautiful, grand even, far grander than the working class home to which it went. But, it was meant for a grand and noble purpose—to be the locus not just for daily meals of halushki and peroghi, but also for daily conversations, for homework and story telling, family prayers and birthday celebrations, schooling little ones in the virtues and handing on the traditions of their homeland. It was, in a sense, made to be an altar, an altar upon which the sacrament of family life unfolded.
It matters because it nourishes our bodies and nourishes our souls.
It matters because it draws friends and family together, around one table, creating community over a shared loaf of bread.
Above all, it matters because two thousand years ago, God became Man. He lived, loved, then died upon a cross. And every day since that day, bread has become God. Wheat and wine have become Body and Blood, an eternal sacrifice of love, offered for us on a table like no other.
In that sacrifice—that Holy Eucharist—we see God for who he is: a generous Lover, a selfless Giver. In that same Holy Eucharist, we see food for what it is: a sign given to us at creation of blessing and gift, nourishment and strength, pleasure and comfort, sacrifice and love.
Just to see those truths, however, is never enough. With the seeing, comes two challenges.
First, we’re challenged to love God with the same total, selfless love with which he loves us, becoming, in effect, a gift, for him and for others.
And second, we’re called to eat eucharistically (eucharistia meaning, literally, “thanksgiving)—honoring God, creation, and the gift of our bodies by approaching every meal with gratitude, temperance, and joy.
Around my dining room table, those two challenges perpetually intersect. People come for dinner and come back for community. We pray. We debate. We laugh. And, of course, we eat, all the while learning to better love God and one another.
For me and for the friends who sit around my table, food does what it’s supposed to do: It creates family. And it does that not because I’m some Cordon Bleu trained chef. I’m not. I’m just a woman who wants people to know how precious they are—to me and to God. Because God shows us that truth every day by feeding us with his Body and Blood, I do the same by feeding everyone who walks through my door.
That’s really all I do. I love, so I cook. And it works. In a world wracked by loneliness, where more than half of all Americans claim to have no close friends, a little love and a lot of cooking go a long way.