As ever, there’s another big Cyrenians event with food coming up – this time at our Community Garden at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital – it’s our Big Lunch Event on June 3rd from 12.30 – and having eaten several times up at the Gardens I can promise you fine fare and good fun!
The lunch is part of our 50th Anniversary events. It’s also one of a huge network of “Big Lunch” events run by the Eden Project right across the country. To quote their website: “it’s a simple idea – that for a few glorious hours, cars stop, shyness stops and neighbours come together in the street to meet, greet, share, swap, sing, plan and laugh”
As is so often the case, it’s the simplest ideas which are often the best and most powerful. In Cyrenians we know the power of sharing food as a catalyst for change: our community cook clubs, the centrality of food in our communities and many other of our services, the developments around our Flavour and Haver Cook School and so much more.
The sharing of food can help transcend divides and build bridges which can seem insurmountable. Many years ago I worked in an intermediate treatment project – an alternative to custody for young teenagers. If I ever wanted to broach a difficult subject, especially one which involved refection on how the group members felt, I would dump the programme and head to the kitchen and make chip butties . Not part of any healthy eating programme but time and time again I found the conversation round the table eating what could be best described as “comfort food” got to a depth rarely achieved by conversion at a group work activity.
The real impact of shared food is the conversations it engenders. It remind us subconsciously of our common humanity, unpacking our prejudice or our assumptions about others. Many years ago I worked in a hostel in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee. It was one of many hotels and hostels but it has one key difference – it deliberately employed both Israeli Arabs and Jews along with Palestinians. It wasn’t easy at times, some difficult conversations and crunchy moments as external tensions spilled into the workplace. But time and again, when staff gathered to eat or even just to drink coffee, conversations happened which otherwise would have been very unlikely if not impossible elsewhere.
It wasn’t perfect – at time arguments flared which gave sight to how deep rooted the divisions were. Some days were downright uncomfortable. But yet there was hope, and it always showed itself when food was being shared and our common humanity was rediscovered.
The Big Lunch may not stop the war in the Middle East – but still has the potential to be a candle in the darkness, a sign of hope in a sometimes challenging world. As the American Civil rights activist Cesar Chavez put it “If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him…the people who give you their food give you their heart.”