A Magazine About Food, Art & Exchange In Midtown Kingston, Published By The Hudson Valley Current.

Take a Seat at the Table

In the age of TV dinners and restaurant gatherings, for many, the tradition of sitting down at the table and sharing a meal is a thing of the past. As more aspects of everyday life become commodified, many practices and rituals are becoming less and less commonplace. Gathering together to eat has become a luxury, it seems, something reserved for special events and holidays a few times a year; but this is not to say that the desire and pursuit have been abandoned.

I have spoken to many Hudson Valley community members who are passionate about bringing back the experience of healing the body through gathering together around food. Collective action like that of Sweet Freedom Farm, A Farm for All, Tilda’s Kitchen, True Foods Collective and Qpop, to name a few, are slowly coming together with the intention of utilizing food as a community building tool. 

This month I spoke with Zien Hodge of Sweet Freedom Farm, Krista Speroni of True Foods, and Tinora Locke on their relationship with food and the community. 

When speaking with Speroni, they stated that,There is something sacred about necessity when it becomes a healing activity. Especially when we do it together.” 

There is an endless cornucopia of opportunity when it comes to food. Food is for more than physical preservation. The food that we eat has a direct relationship with our mental health. The gut-brain axis links the emotional and cognitive areas of the brain with gut functions. Speroni spoke on the friction and dissonance that arises when we neglect to give our body the fuel we need. 

“When the mind and body know that you’re straying from health,” they stated, “there’s a feeling of unsteadiness that stays there unless we exercise it and process it.” One way this processing may occur is by farming, cooking, and eating with others. When we include others in this work it becomes less tedious. It can be difficult to motivate ourselves to chop up a stack of vegetables alone. With others, interaction and company seem to carry time away. When the onus of the framework becomes lightened by the hands of others, it opens up a unique space for conversation and candidness. There is a relearning that occurs in the presence of others. Many of us were not taught how to care for ourselves. I recently learned how to properly hold a knife.  

The month of November is often imagined with turkey tails and squash shared upon a dutiful feast amongst the indigenous and their colonizers. We have been spoon-fed the too bright narrative of gratitude and thanksgiving despite the traumatic underlying truths that lie beneath them. Returning to a routine once sacred after centuries of exploitation may be daunting for some. 

However, when working out in the fields there is a unique opportunity for healing. Reconnecting with the earth invites play and dance, reverse and prune out the pathways that are no longer serving us. Locke spoke of finding joy in the “repainting of something ancestral that isn’t in the context of forced labor.” Farming with others assists in the process of reclaiming one’s own power and autonomy through self-sustainability and direct participation in the energetic processes that keep us alive. There is a beauty, as Hodge noted, in the “freedom to touch the things that you feel are precious.”

With farming, “the end goal is we’re all going to sit together and enjoy this,” Speroni states. When we eat together, Locke added, “it opens up a unique space for bonding, conversation, arguments, and real human interaction.” Food brings people together, and allows us to be more vulnerable. “Dining Room discussions get heated, but it’s the only time things are addressed and becomes a safespace.”  

So how can we eat together? Perhaps a simple practice like once a month gatherings with friends to eat together and share meals. Potluck and backyard gatherings provide the opportunity to share our stories and emotions through our food. With different folks around the table we are sharing and consolidating information. 

With concerns of Covid arising, the opportunity to reconnect through cooking still stands. Hop on Zoom and cook a meal together in the company of your own kitchen. Within our local community, Qpop is working to create spaces for the community members to come together through cooking classes, community dinners, and an upcoming Transgiving event where they will be distributing free meals. We are all trying to fill the void, but we can’t do it alone. This year, I invite you to take a seat at the table and reimagine eating meals together.