My first post for 'The Rome Series,' highlighting reflections from my recent trip to Rome, Italy. I am excited to share my experience with the culture, food, and history with you.
Before leaving for Italy, a priest gave me a travel tip saying, “Make sure you pack a ‘whatever’ attitude” and further explained that Italians focus on people, not systems. On relationships, not order. I myself noticed this profoundly during mealtime, as Italian people leisurely ate meals and put care into food preparation and quality. It was a concept ingrained into their culture and I think we would do well to learn from this.
Americans generally eat on the go, or inhale their food between working hours. Many people eat alone. Conversely, Italians generally have a communal, social aspect to their meals. They do not force or rush the experience. In fact, a waiter will rarely bring a bill expect when asked, anticipating a long dining experience for his guests. It is the difference between a drive-through hamburger and a perfectly al dente linguine alti scampi (linguini with shrimp, yum!).
As Christians we actually have a responsibility to create a kind of reverence surrounding mealtime. Feeding our body with fresh, seasonal foods shows respect for the gift of our bodies. It also respects the earth and seasonality of God’s creation. St. Jean-Baptiste de la Salle had this to say, “It is so natural for people to seek pleasure in eating and drinking that Saint Paul, teaching early Christians to perform all their actions for the love and glory of God, is obliged to mention eating and drinking specifically, for it is difficult to eat without offending God. Most people eat like animals to satisfy their appetite.” Let us not devour our food like animals, but instead invite God into our meals, that he might sanctify them, that he might elevate our conversation and give us grateful hearts.
Think back to the last meal that you ate…did you say grace prior to eating? Did you choose food that would nourish your body? Did you actually taste and savor your bites? Did you interact and converse with the person with whom you were sharing the meal? Let us enter into mealtime with intention and purpose, allowing God to permeate this everyday occurrence. Let us be more like Italians at mealtime and focus on people, on relationships, instead of tasks.