Let’s have this right from the start: to share food is a fundamental part of sociability, teaching kindness and bestowing goodness, encouraging manners and building relationships. The very word “companion” means “one with whom one breaks bread” meaning, a fellow eater sharing your victuals.
Nowadays, much is promoted to show what can be eaten without sharing. Some advertisements in the last thirty years show a peculiarly highly developed sense of the anti-social, sometimes even bordering on sociopathic. There is a current unattractive insistence on “it’s mine” and “I am the one who is enjoying this” and so on. It is not nice. These are not noble sentiments. All in all, such behaviour shows that the very tenets of sociability are not being put into practice and the opposite of sociability is being honoured, valued and promoted.
Selfishness is the opposite of sociability. Selfishness denies sociability. Selfishness is not about sharing. Selfishness is ugly.
Sharing is not about selfishness. It is about deriving pleasure from giving freely of one’s own good things without seeking reward. Sharing does not mean being generous with other people’s things however. That would come under the heading of administration.
Having written about bread once before, it is tempting to write about it again. Now though, several events have made me want to write about sharing.
Nothing puts you on a motive questioning course faster than a brush with mortality. Suddenly, personal preoccupations change. Material things are better used if they are given to those who have need. Sharing and giving means doing exactly that but without questions; without seeking answers; without chalking up a tally; without valuing; without making conditions.
Now I am getting older, I remember those who shared food with me. Some I might have preferred to forget too – were I a food critic. But I am not that. The act of sharing was not a request for culinary appraisal. The sharing was an act of bonding. I remember the tentative ways in which the sharing was done too. If you are observant and sensible enough, you will see it too in the invitation to share. It is seen too in the making of something to share. It is love. It is love given unconditionally.
Sharing food and making food to share prompts a survival skill to grow. That skill is that we all need each other – even a little bit. Even those who can only take and not give in return. For most humans have an instinct to share. Kindness is not weakness, it is the lifeblood of survival. Bare ignorance and want make weakness. By following sociable instincts and behaving sociably and rewarding sociability with kind and encouraging comment, we can teach by example those – fellow humans and animals – for whom the sharing instinct is something to be developed.
And so, it is time to remember the cakes, sweets, currant pastries, sad cakes, fat cakes, dinners, drinks, snacks, lunches, pickles, jams, dinners, breakfasts, fruit, vegetables, sandwiches, chocolates, crusts, pies, biscuits and at the same time, remember that they were shared with me, to encourage, to temper, to mould, to cajole, to make sociable, to live, to love. By remembering the food, so the example and so the people are remembered too. That is living memory. Not stones.
You are what you eat.