Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Family is People You Share Food with on a Regular Basis

Last night, I wrote a post about my social media family. I described family as: 
It includes blood and marriage of course. And immediate family are the people I cherish most in the world. But family here is the people I share with and who choose to share with me each day.
My friend, Alex, then posted:
I was in a community once that defined family as people that you share food with on a regular basis.
This was an interesting premise to learn about.  It got me thinking. In the traditional sense of a community, this would make a lot of sense. What would it mean to an electronic or virtual community? I wrote that perhaps if we adapted it to say "food for thought" or "pictures of food" it would work.

While this is an interesting adaptation of what Alex said, I wanted to spend some time thinking about why sharing food on a regular basis would make family by choice.  This is particularly interesting in light of some recent posts about blended families being families by choice and what the implications of families by choice would be.  

We can start with the obvious.  Family is about sharing.  Not only food, of course.  Although perhaps the earliest versions of family were mostly about sharing food-at the bottom of Maslow's triangle.  The most basic need.  With whom do we share when we are worried about taking care of our most basic needs?  The people we care about most.  Family.  At that point it was about survival.  And if we want to get biological-it was not only about our own survival or the survival of the species but also about the survival of our DNA once children were involved.

In this day and age, what does sharing food bring out?  Well, food brings our conversation.  When humans moved from just sharing whatever they already had to planning ahead, people could have been discussing strategy for the next hunt. Today, conversation could be about what was good in the day.  About what was bad in the day.  About the bigger picture.  About how each of us and the family unit as a whole fit in with the bigger picture and something bigger.  Spirituality.  Much higher on Maslow's triangle.

Why does it bring this out?  Well, I believe that truly sharing food doesn't mean just leaving a pot of something on the stove that everyone can grab a plate of when they get a chance.  Truly sharing means stopping and sitting at table together.  It makes us slow down.  It means we spend time in one place.  Around one table.  Focused.  Together.  Being a part of something bigger.  If we give a completely secular interpretation to "whenever two or more are gathered in my name" and just write "whenever two or more are gathered" I begin to recognize that there is something to that.  

In a world of friends separated not by the next cave, next house, or even next community over but by hundreds or thousands of miles, we can always gather at table.  But there are other ways to gather.  

I find that sharing pictures of food speaks volumes.  It speaks to how I (or anyone else sharing such a picture) likes to put time into our cooking.  Cares about our cooking.  Cares enough about our cooking to do something more than just a TV dinner for our family.  Cares enough to share it.  Some might say, show off rather  than share but I think it is about having other people be interested and thinking about whether they would ever make the same thing.  What they are going to make for dinner tonight. Sharing our inner workings as it really matters.  And sharing what is important.

Finally, sharing food for thought.  For me, it means I take the time to write.  For those who are part of my "Connecting the Dots" family it means taking the time to read what I have written.  The time to think and write, and time to read and think, is a reflective process that fits well with the sharing that could occur around a table with family (in whatever sense of the word) and food and drink.  It is an synchronous sharing relationship, but it is still a sharing relationship.  An online family.

It doesn't mean that a virtual family (even one centered around thinking) could ever replace a real family.  A family of people you can walk next to, sit next to, hug, and look at.  But it does offer a way of extending family.

And for that, I am grateful to have learned about my friend's community's interpretation of family. 

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