My sister and her partner recently visited from Atlanta on a weekend that we’d already scheduled a Gorge-to-Table cooking experience. I invited them to join us, and they eagerly accepted. That Saturday, six folks from the Portland area arrived at our home and thus began easy and steady conversation and cooking and camaraderie. Learning to filet the whole salmon line-caught only hours earlier was decidedly the best and worst portion of the class for this group of squeamish stomachs. Spontaneous shrieks, playful regrets, and boisterous laughter filled the kitchen, warming the stage for an experience not to be forgotten.
Our shared meal a delicious success, we sat round an outdoor table enjoying the warm summer air and our satisfied tummies. The humorous banter rested on embarrassing foreign travel experiences, followed by amusing laughter and nodding heads. Curious, my sister asked how we all knew one another. Always a fair and common question from a new addition to a group, but tonight it seemed especially so as I looked around the table. Among us there were considerable differences in age, ethnicity, spiritual and cultural beliefs, careers, and education.
In near-perfect unison, with broadening smiles and shaking heads, we replied, “we don’t!” And another round of cheers was had, klinking glasses in celebration of enjoying life without fear.
My sister was shocked; in a good way. She was certain, given the ease and seeming familiarity, that we were long-standing friends. When the opposite was revealed, she beamed, realizing that she was in the midst of pure acceptance and goodness of and between strangers. She’s no stranger to this phenomenon, having lived in Europe for many years and frequently being on the receiving end of the generosity and kindness of strangers, with the added barrier of language differences. But with today’s divisive climate, especially in the south where she now lives, she isn’t witness to it at this level of intimacy. She’s never considered inviting one stranger let alone a group into her home, nor have any of her friends.
In inviting others into our home, we all experience the trusting side of life. The goodness side of life. The heart-loving side of life. Food just happens to be our medium, which seems to be the medium of choice for many. Entice adventurous souls with organic goodness, the harvesting of fresh ingredients, sharing counter space in the kitchen, setting a gorgeous and welcoming table, and creating a beautiful and delicious meal together and you’ve got the makings for a wonderfully rich experience.
The truth is, we are surrounded by kind, generous people of all walks, of all expressions, of all ideologies. So when people ask: “why would you invite strangers into your home?,” we ask in return: “why wouldn’t we?” In so doing, we experience the true human spirit.
A great big thank you to all of our wonderful guests. It’s our pleasure to break bread with you. Our home and our hearts are enriched by your presence.